Blackwood

Blackwood

Common name Blackwood
Botanical name Acacia melanoxylon
Family Fabaceae
Natural range south-east Australia
Mature height to 20m
Form Fairly upright, can be multi-stemmed
Likes Growing anywhere
Dislikes Not much
Where to plant Timber plantation
Known for Attractive timber

Blackwood for timber

When is Blackwood not ‘black’? That is the question. The answer – unfortunately – is that nobody really knows. This high-grade timber from readily-available Australian Acacias has been lusted after worldwide for years, but the problem is that occasionally, the dark heartwood timber from a Blackwood is just too… light!

An early note from a Tasmanian woodworker states: “The timber of Acacia melanoxylon is considered to be more deeply veined and tinted on the northern than on the southern side of the colony. It is called Blackwood in Launceston and Lightwood in Hobart Town.” Is the problem geographical then? Does cold weather produce lighter wood? To this day, no one knows what causes the variability.

In fact, this tendency to colour variability has been both a strength and weakness for Australian Blackwood, which is now grown worldwide for timber. The variability even extends to trees within the same plantation, leading to frustrations for timber growers.

Blackwood in the farming landscape

Blackwood is also a useful tree for agroforestry (integrating trees into farming landscapes). It provides shade for stock in summer, its tough bark resists most animals chewing on it, grass grows well beneath the canopy and it doesn’t drop branches. Trees like this can even help suppress Blackberries with their dense shade.

Do Wattles have leaves?

Like most species of Acacia, these trees have have ‘phyllodes’ rather than true leaves. The glabrous, glossy, leathery, dark green to greyish-green phyllodes have a length of 4-16 cm  with a variable shape
(juvenile leaves are bipinnate which occasionally persist on mature plants).

Invasive status

Overseas, Blackwood has been introduced to many countries for forestry plantings and as an ornamental tree. It is now found in Africa, Asia, Europe, Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, South America and the United States. Unfortunately, its tendency to spread easily and ability as a pioneer species (growing in disturbed soil) has meant it is also a declared noxious weed species in South Africa and Portugal’s Azores Islands.

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