KAWAKA and PAHAUTEA, New Zealand Cedars
(Libocedrus plumosa, L. bidwillii).
These two medium-sized forest trees belong to the coniferous family Cupressaceae that is widely distributed, but to a genus within the family that is confined to New Caledonia and New Zealand. Kawaka occurs in lowland forest from Northland to the centre of the North Island and again in the north-west tip of the South Island, while pahautea occurs typically in wet forest at higher altitudes from about Auckland southwards. It is most common on the west of the South Island Main Divide. Both trees grow to 60–70 ft high, have slender boles, and are usually gregarious. A fine example of a forest almost dominated by pahautea at higher altitudes is to be seen south-east of Waiouru.
The bark falls away in long thin ribbons. Young trees are handsome and regular in shape. Leaves are small, scale-like, and appressed close to the branches. Those on juvenile plants differ from the adult leaves in being somewhat larger and borne on flattened branchlets. A twig from a young L. bidwillii is remarkably similar to a twig from an adult L. plumosa. The fruit is a small, scaly cone under 1 in. long. Timber is now scarce and rarely marketed. It is sometimes confused with totara (Podocarpus totara) which it resembles, but it is lighter in weight and darker in colour though, like totara, the heartwood is very durable. It splits easily and when available was used by the early settlers for shingles, fence posts and battens, and general building. It is still used in the central North Island for fencing material.
by Alec Lindsay Poole, M.SC., B.FOR.SC., F.R.S.N.Z., Director-General of Forests, Wellington.