largest kauri tree


King of the Forest

Kauri are among the world’s mightiest trees, growing to over 50 metres tall, with trunk girths up to 16 metres, and living for over 2,000 years. Kauri forests once covered 1.2 million hectares from the Far North of Northland New Zealand to Te Kauri, near Kawhia and were common when the first people arrived around 1,000 years ago.

Maori used kauri timber for boat building, carving and building houses. The arrival of European settlers in the 1700s to 1800s saw the decimation of these magnificent forests. Sailors quickly realised the trunks of young kauri were ideal for ships’ masts and spars, and the settlers who followed felled the mature trees to yielded huge quantities of sawn kauri timber of unsurpassed quality for building. More kauri forest was cleared as demand for farmland and timber increased in the early and mid 20th century.

All the remaining kauri trees are now under New Zealand governmental and legal protection and cutting them down is strictly forbidden. The largest surviving Kauri is the ‘Tane Mahuta’ or ‘King Of The Forest’.

Kauri Gum

Gem of the Forest

Kauri gum is a fossilised resin extracted from Ancient Kauri, which is made into crafts such as jewellery. Kauri gum formed when resin from Kauri trees leaked out through fractures or cracks in the bark, hardening with exposure to air. Lumps commonly fell to the ground and became covered with soil and forest litter, eventually fossilising. Other lumps formed as branches forked or trees were damaged, which released the resin. Like amber, Kauri gum sometimes includes insects and plant material.

Kauri gum is a type of copal. From the mid-1840s Kauri gum was exported to England and America. Tentative exports had begun a few years earlier.

The gum varied in color depending on the condition of the original tree. It also depended on where the gum had formed and how long it had been buried. Colors ranged from chalky-white, through to red-brown to black. The most prized was a pale gold, as it was hard and translucent. The majority were the size of acorns, although some were found weighing a few pounds. Kauri gum shares a few characteristics with amber, another fossilised resin found in the Northern Hemisphere, but where amber can be dated as millions of years old, carbon-dating suggests the age of most Kauri gum is up to 50,000 years which is the limit of C14 radio carbon dating.

Kauri Gum

What is Ancient Kauri?

Ancient Kauri, also known as swamp kauri, is from kauri trees that have been buried and preserved in New Zealand’s peat swamps for up to 50,000 years. Some kauri were up to 2,000 years old when they fell. Swamp kauri is prized for its age, its appearance, and its rarity.

Swamp Kauri Infographic

Infographic showing how swamp kauri can be formed. Photo credit: MPI NZ.

Excavation of Ancient Kauri wood is time consuming, expensive and technically difficult requiring skilled operators of heavy machinery. Most importantly it is environmently friendly. While working in wet conditions, each log must be carefully brought to the surface. After the log has been removed, the area is then restored to its original contours.

It takes years to dry Ancient Kauri. It is first stacked to be air dried and may take up to several years to dry. It is then temperature controlled dried in a kiln for another 6 months to reach an ideal air dry density.

Kauri excavation
Kauri transportation
Kauri stump
Kauri slabbing
Kauri drying
ICEWOOD making Kauri table