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 Harvesting and marketing some pruned redwood giants

Jeff Tombleson, New Zealand Tree Grower February 2007.

In 1997 Forest Research (now Scion) harvested and marketed 26 giant redwood trees which were felled for various reasons including their close proximity to buildings. The trees had been planted in 1901, the same year as the neighbouring trees located in the Redwood Memorial Grove, Rotorua. The trees had an average diameter of approximately one metre and an average height of 55 metres.

Felling a 96-year-old pruned redwood tree which required a push from the beak of the loader.
The bigger stems had large end diameters of over two metres
Many of the pruned logs were custom sawn to full length clears

The biggest trees had diameters over two metres and therefore the tree fellers had to search out long bars for their chainsaws. Most of the trees were perfectly balanced and despite being almost completely severed, each tree had to be pushed over using the beak of a loader.

The average merchantable weight of each tree was over 13 tonnes.

In earlier times the trees had been pruned to a height of over 12 metres. Given the very large log size, it was a rarity for such high quality pruned logs to be presented to the market. That is unless the Redwood Memorial Grove should suffer catastrophic wind-throw in the future.

Following vigorous marketing these magnificent pruned logs were sold for $120 a tonne on truck, which represented an average radiata pine pruned log price at the time. The unpruned logs were sold for $85 a tonne and used for sawing into large dimensions and profiling for use in log home construction. Many of the pruned logs were also custom sawn into clear grade boards and sold for $950 a cubic metre to a company which used it for construction of exposed wooden garage doors, as a substitution for imported western red cedar.

While the above prices are not enticing, it will take more than 26 pruned redwood trees to create sustained supply and demand, and hopefully prices that will meet grower expectations.

Jeff Tombleson is a former Forest Research scientist, now self employed.

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