The History of Kauri


The New Zealand Kauri tree (Agathis Australis) is the oldest
and tallest tree in New Zealand and can be up to
5 metre ( approx. 17 feet ) in diameter and a height of over
50 metre ( approx. 150 feet ).

One of the dinosaurs of the plant kingdom, the Kauri can grow to be over 2.000 years old and is a protected species.

This is the Tana Mahuta in Waipua forest, Northland
Girth = 13.77 metre
Trunk Volume = 244.5 cubic metre
Age = 1250 Years


What is swamp Kauri?

The term "Swamp Kauri" tends to suggest that Kauri trees grew in swamp areas. This was not the case, but rather the reverse as Kauri could not stand 'wet feet'.
Over millions of years there have been great geological changes in New Zealand, involving the ice age, earthquakes, eruptions severe gales, vast floods, catastrophic landslides even continental plate movements.
Forest trees were were overwhelmed by the varying forces of nature. Kauri of all ages and sizes were swept from the forest hillsides ending up in the lowland swamps, eventually to be covered by river silt and subsequent landslides to remain in a state of preservation.



Thirty Thousand-year old Kauri stumps dot the surface of Lake Ohia, at the base of the Karikari Peninsula, and serve as a reminder of the fast tracts of rainforest which once blanketed the North. Some swamp Kauri of this vintage has been brought to the surface with its leaves and cones still green, supporting the theory that these great forests were sheared off rapidly at ground level by advancing ice sheets.


Northland farmers working their land for many years have unearthed immense logs, some bearing the typical scaly bark and leathery spear shaped bronze-green leaves still intact as they are cleared from the peat.



In the sunlight of he twentieth century the leaves and bark disintegrate within minutes, but the wood is still preserved, only darkened a little with the passing of centuries.


What is Kauri Gum (Amber)?

Apart of its incredible old age of the swamp Kauri there is an other side to the wood. It is the very high concentration of gum. Gum is the wood-sap what gives the wood such a nice and bright colour. One of the benefits of this gum is that it has preserved the wood over this long period.

When a part of the tree or root is damages, the tree starts to bleed gum. the gum oozed out of the wound and hardens in a protective layer to defend the tree against disease and insects. The Kauri gum (which is often preserved in the tables) was once an expensive material and provided an income to many early settlers. Long probes and back breaking digging by shovel was the only way to retrieve this mineral, which was then shipped overseas for use in high quality varnish and linoleum


A large gang trenching a Northland swamp to recover deeply buried gum in 1908.
What looks like a battlefield trench was work of Dalmatians.


A Kauri gum buyer with two pieces of highly polished gum, collector's pieces.
The translucent gum glows rich tones ranging from light amber to dark brown.


Lump of Kauri gum straight from the swamp during digging for Kauri stumps.


Gum showing in a cross-section of the root


Gum showing in a cross-section of the root


Polished Gum on the edge of a  finished Kauri table.



How old is Swamp Kauri?

The story of the New Zealand Kauri began 150 million years ago when Gondwana Land began to break up, leaving New Zealand isolated and free to evolve its own vegetation. Today, Kauri Forests are the descendants of a succession of Kauri Forests going back 65 million years, as confirmed by fossil trees and gum found in archaeological excavations. Some of the Kauri found was growing when Stone Age people and Mammoths were roaming Europe.



Our great cultures of the distant past are mere infants in comparison to these great Kauris.

Who knows what felled the great Kauri Forest of the far North of New Zealand. Some swamp Kauri of this vintage has been brought to the surface with their leaves and cones still green. This supports a theory that these great forests were sheared of at the ground level by rapidly advancing sheets of ice. In other locations trees were found lying in one direction, which indicates the possibility of a volcanic eruption. Due to the extremely high gum content of these trees combined with the absence of oxygen and the acids in the peat, they are preserved for over 36,000 years until today.






Just to mention, all those great cultures and animals have past in the time those trees were growing or lying into N.Z. Northern peat swamps.