Red ironbark is a general name that refers to four species of eucalypt. The two most common species are the mugga ironbark (Eucalyptus sideroxylon) and the narrow-leaved red ironbark (E. tricarpa). Two other species (E.fibrosa and E. crebra) also fall into the red ironbark category. Most red ironbark timber is currently sourced from native forests, however the number of markets for the timber provide some hope for a successful plantation industry.
Commercial farm trees have the potential to offer a range of benefits to farmers and land managers by increasing Australia’s long-term timber supply while contributing social, economic and environmental benefits to regional areas.
Trees are often planted to provide windbreaks and shelterbelts for crops and livestock, to manage the water table or to protect topsoil from erosion. However, many landholders, using existing infrastructure and integrating tree management practices into existing farm operations, may be able to earn an alternative income from planting farm trees that earn a commercial return. The risk inherent in all commercial tree operations is the long period between establishment and harvest which can range from 30-50 years.
Commercial trees are a long-term investment, with red ironbark taking 30 years to reach optimum specifications for harvest. While commercial trees are not as labour intensive as other agricultural enterprises, they do require maintenance to ensure a high quality product.
Facts and figures
- The name red ironbark refers to four species of the Eucalyptus genus (E. sideroxylon, E. tricarpa, E. creba and E. fibrosa)
- Red ironbark occurs naturally in parts of Victoria, New South Wales and southern Queensland
- Red ironbark can be planted to complement an existing farm enterprise, or in plantations on separate land
- It is a versatile timber and suitable for a range of markets
- The timber is very hard, strong and durable and is used in construction and engineering
- The deep red colour makes the timber an attractive choice for high quality furniture
- Most red ironbark is sourced from native forests
- It can take more than 30 years to reach harvest
In Australia, red ironbark logs are almost exclusively sourced from native forests.