New Zealand Woods by Clive Dalton – Article Five – Kahikatea

Our passion is to create memorable items from the wide range of both native and exotic timbers available in New Zealand, and to share our skills with others such as yourself.



Kahikatea (Dacrycarpus dacrydioides) is the New Zealand “white pine” and is the tallest tree in our native bush. It is a member of the Podocarpacae family characterised by their smooth bark which prevents creepers attaching and eventually smothering the tree.


The juvenile seedling leaves are longer than the drooping twigs with fine needle leaves. The mature adult leaves are larger again and more sparse.


The tree grows to 50m high and 1.5m in diameter with grey tapering trunk free of branches for the first 25m. Kahikatea are found throughout lowland forest areas and is most obvious in dense stands of trees in swampy areas. It is regularly seen in developed farm land where clumps of trees have been left for shade. These trees need to be fenced as the tree roots are damaged by stock.


Kahikatea timber is white with a pale yellow heart and is very straight grained. It was used extensively by the early pioneers for household utensils, especially milk churns, bowls and ladles. It was also the main timber used for boxes to export cheese, butter and apples as it didn’t taint the produce during long ship voyages.


Kahikatea is not a popular turning wood and the heart wood is preferred as it has a bit more character. The sapwood is very susceptible to attack by the common borer (Anobium punctatum).



Dr Clive Dalton studied agriculture in the UK before teaching animal production at Leeds University. He came to NZ to do hill country animal research and then extension/promotion at the Ruakura Research Centre.

Before retirement he taught agriculture at Wintec. He is a founding member of the Guild and edited a blog recording the interests and activities of members over several years. This material is reproduced with his permission.