Freycinet Lodge Furniture - credit Matthew Farrell

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Myrtle is a striking wood with rich red, brown, and almost orange tones and makes an excellent veneer and finishing timber.

The timber

It is believed the richness of colour comes from the quality of the soil it grows in. The deepest red myrtle comes from highly fertile soils on basalt. The colour is vibrant, combining subtle variations in tone with the texture and sheen of wavy and fiddleback features to produce a surface alive with character and individuality. While a pale and pink myrtle resource is available, commercial production concentrates on the deeper red variety. It is a close grained species with well defined annual rings but with little latewood.

Myrtle's fine aesthetic qualities are matched by its working properties. It is particularly easy to work and makes excellent veneer.
Taking a deep lustre when polished, Myrtle is prized by architects and furniture makers alike. It is used as a solid or veneer in high quality furniture, joinery, cabinet making and feature panelling in homes and offices, or as a striking finishing timber for cornices, architraves and skirting.

It has further applications for craft workers. Myrtle turns well and traditionally has been used for spindle turning and bowls. Craft workers particularly favour burls and knotty wood.

The resource

Myrtle is a predominant species in Tasmania’s cool temperate rainforests. In wet eucalypt forests, Myrtle grows as an understorey tree, and as a small shrub at higher altitudes when the site is exposed to wind. Achieving its best growth in highly organic soils, Myrtle in moist and sheltered conditions will flourish from sea level to 700m, though it can achieve significant growth rates through to 1570m.

Depending on available rainfall and humidity, Myrtle can be fairly fast growing. In optimum growing conditions, it is capable of regenerating continuously and forests can contain Myrtle trees ranging from 1 to 500 years old.

Myrtle is found in the north-west and west of the state, though small communities thrive on the Tasman Peninsula and South Bruny Island. 82% of total forest types containing Myrtle are in reserves.

The Tree

Myrtle is a tall evergreen tree, reaching to 30-40m in height and can achieve a diameter of 1.5–2.5m.Their fine textured leaves and dark green crown can give Myrtle trees a ragged appearance.

Myrtle flowers in spring, with very small light flowers growing on the new shoots at ends of branches. Female flowers grow in groups of three, just above the male flowers, which are either solitary or found occasionally in threes. ?Seeds are shed in late summer to early autumn. A parasitic fungus, Cyttaria gunii, often grows on Myrtle trees, causing round, dimpled orange fruit like protrusions.

New spring growth is red to bronze coloured, developing into a glossy green leaf. As they age, the leaves become thick, stiff and develop a dark green shade. Myrtle’s leaves are triangular in shape. They grow to 1-1.5cm and have a coarse blunt-tooth edge.

Myrtle bark is brown, scaly and slightly fibrous, and does not shed from the trunk.

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