The current source of blackwood timber is from native forests on both public and private land. Future supplies are uncertain leading to interest amongst some private landholders in the potential for commercial plantations of blackwood for high quality timber. Internationally, blackwood has been grown to final harvest in plantations in South Africa, New Zealand and Chile.
The blackwood industry in Australia is relatively small, but one that supports furniture manufacturing and craft industries. It has an established favourable reputation as a furniture timber and is a high value species capable of filling a market niche created by declining availability of cabinet timbers from native forests.
While blackwood is well suited to cultivation and management in plantations, it is costly and labour intensive to grow commercially because of the 30–50 year period between planting and harvest, high establishment and maintenance costs, and generally, no income throughout the rotation. These characteristics make blackwood a daunting or prohibitive investment for many people. Fortunately, blackwood is a locally native species in many areas that provides a range of non-timber values and can be incorporated in many agroforestry plantings including shelterbelts, shade trees, riparian buffers and erosion control plantings. If the trees grow well they can be pruned with a view to keeping the options of a commercial harvest alive. Pruning will also reduce the fire hazard, increase pasture and native understorey production and improve the shade value for stock.
Facts and figures
- Blackwood is a member of the wattle family
- It is a hardwood tree that occurs naturally across southern and eastern Australia and Tasmania, growing well in swampy and riverine environments
- The timber ranges in colour from a very pale honey, through to a dark brown with streaks of red tinge
- Blackwood timber is used in furniture manufacturing, boat building, musical instruments and craft pursuits
- Blackwood is harvested from native forests, with about 7000 cubic metres of sawlog-grade material produced annually
- Blackwood has good potential for farm forestry in higher rainfall areas on sheltered sites but producing quality blackwood timber in plantations is costly and labour intensive
Tasmania is the largest producer of blackwood timber, with production of around 7,000 cubic metres of sawlog-grade material, derived from native forests, each year. While native forest production will most likely be the main source into the future, there have been plantings of around 1,000 hectares of blackwood in far north west and southern Tasmania.