MATAI, BLACK PINE
Like other New Zealand podocarps, matai has a timber possessing very fine qualities. It is somewhat hard and brittle for a conifer but works to a satiny finish and wears extremely well. It is very durable except when in the ground and is a choice timber for flooring and weatherboards. The amount cut falls a long way behind rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum) which is the most important native timber; nevertheless, it is second in quantity.
Matai occurs throughout the country in lowland forest. It is rare in Stewart Island and most frequent in the forests of the pumice country in the centre of the North Island. Usually it indicates the presence of a good soil. Together with other podocarps such as rimu, totara, miro, and sometimes kahikatea, it helps to form the scattered, emergent upper storey of tall forest trees. It grows to heights of 80 ft and the trunk is usually 2–4 ft through. The crown is bushy and a lightish-green in colour. Leaves are linear, half an inch or less, and are arranged in two rows. Seedlings and small saplings have long, slender entangled branch-lets with smaller leaves. Male and female flowers are both borne in small spikes – hence the specific name of the tree – on separate trees. The fruit is black, globose, and about half an inch long. It consists of a hard seed covered by a fleshy layer.
by Alec Lindsay Poole, M.SC., B.FOR.SC., F.R.S.N.Z., Director-General of Forests, Wellington.