New Zealand Woods by Clive Dalton – Article Four – Tawa

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Tawa (Beilschmiedia tawa) is a tall lowland forest tree growing up to 25m high. It has a straight trunk of 1.25m diameter covered in almost black bark. But the blackness is caused by algae as the bark is naturally grey and smooth, rather reminiscent of English beech (Fagus silvaticus).


Tawa belongs to the Lauraceae (the laurel family) and forms pure stands in some areas.


The green leaves are simple, lanceolate, 50mm long x 10mm wide and are very thin and lacy. It has large 10mm diameter plum-like black berries loved by native birds.


Tawa grows throughout the North Island and in the northern parts of the South Island. Tawa timber has been widely used for building, especially flooring. It has also been used for furniture and internal fittings and panelling. It has also been, and still is a popular firewood.


The wood is a pale buff colour with a nice grain. The heart wood and knots are an attractive dark brown with some black streaks. It is very easy to work and is not classed as a toxic timber.