New Zealand Woods by Clive Dalton – Article One – Matai

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.
Matai (Prumnopitys taxifolia) is a robust forest tree that grows up to 25m high with a trunk diameter of up to 1.3m. It is found throughout New Zealand and was called “black pine” by early European settlers. As a member of the Podocarpaceae family it has a smooth deciduous bark that prevents creepers attaching themselves and eventually smothering the tree.

The leaves are dark green above and light green below with a dark midrib. It’s a bit like yew. The fruit is a black cherry-like berry.

The timber can be variable in colour but is generally a lovely golden brown when polished. It has straight grain and is harder and heavier than other New Zealand Podocarps, but it is easy to work. It has a pleasant smell when turning and the dust is non toxic.

Matai was used extensively for floor boards in houses and village halls where it stood the test of time and stiletto heels! It was easy to maintain and refurbish with a good polish.

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.