Not to be confused with western red cedar (Thuja plicat), red cedar is a member of the Meliaceae family and can grow to around 60m in height with a trunk that can reach 3m in diameter.
Red cedar is one of Australia’s few native deciduous trees (where leaves seasonally fall and regrow). The timber is red in colour, easy to work and very highly valued. While considered commercially extinct, trees are still occasionally harvested from sources grown in the 1950s, which have a trunk size of approximately 1m.
In addition to the timber’s high value, red cedar is a fast growing tree with the ability to survive drought, fire and moderate frost, which raise its potential as a plantation species. However, commercial plantations have been unsuccessful due to the prevalence of the cedar tip moth, which causes dieback and stimulates the tree to grow additional branches, making its shape unsuitable for commercial production. Commercial tree operations are inherently high risk and highly specialised and are long term investments with the time between establishment and harvest ranging from 30-50 years.
Facts and figures
- Red cedar was named “red gold” by Australia’s early settlers, who used it extensively in furniture, construction and boat building
- It can grow to 60m tall, with a trunk that can reach 3m
- The tree was over harvested in the early 20th Century to a point that it is now considered commercially extinct
- Availability of this timber is now limited
- Red cedar is a fast growing tree with good tolerance to drought, fire and frost
- It has not been a successful plantation tree due to its susceptibility to the cedar tip moth
- It may be a suitable tree to grow interspersed with other species
Red cedar is not grown in commercial quantities in Australia. Trees are occasionally harvested on the Atherton Tableland of Queensland by the state’s forestry agency. Because of the scarcity of Australian timber, red cedar timber is imported to meet demand.
Efforts to grow red cedar as a plantation tree have generally failed due to attack by the cedar tip moth. However, red cedar has been successfully grown in shady areas of temperate regions, with a nurse crop to protect them from cedar tip moth.