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Myrtle beech facts for kids

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Myrtle beech
Nothofagus cunninghamii.JPG
Foliage with young growth
Conservation status
Scientific classification

Lophozonia cunninghamii
Fagus cunninghamii

Nothofagus cunninghamii, the myrtle beech, is an evergreen tree native to Tasmania and Victoria, Australia. It grows mainly in the temperate rainforests, but also grows in alpine areas. It is not related to the Myrtle family. It is often referred to as Tasmanian myrtle within the timber industry. N. cunninghamii was proposed to be renamed Lophozonia cunninghamii in 2013. There has been some controversy over the change in name from Nothofagus to Lophozonia.

These plants range from trees 30–40 m (98–131 ft) tall with large trunks to low-growing alpine shrubs less than 1 m tall. Maximum height is about 55 m (180 ft). The leaves are simple and alternate, growing 0.5–1.5 cm (0.2–0.6 in) long, and in Victoria up to 2 cm (0.8 in) long. The leaf color is dark green, with new growth brilliant red, pink or orange in spring. They are triangular with irregular minute teeth. The plants have separate male and female flowers on the same tree. These flower form inconspicuous clusters beside leaves near the tips of the branches. The fruit is small (about 6 mm (0.24 in)) and woody and contains three small winged nuts.

Occasionally one may see round, orange-like fruiting bodies of a fungus protruding from the trunk; this is Cyttaria gunnii.

Uses and cultivation

It is an excellent cabinetry timber which is hard with strong, tough, close grain. It is a soft pink to reddish brown, often figured and can be polished to a fine sheen. It is used for flooring, joinery, cogs of wheels, and furniture, and is good for steam bending, turnery and carving. It is harvested from old growth forest but the vast majority of the timber is left on the ground as it grows with the heavily harvested mountain ash. Dry Density 700 kg/m3.

Nothofagus cunninghamii is a fairly robust species, requiring around 900 mm (35 in) of rain spread throughout the year. It is most common in Tasmania, where it occurs in most regions except the drier Midlands and east coast. It also occurs in some moderately large patches in Victoria. It grows best in the deep red mountain soils of Victoria, or in highly organic soils. It can grow in full shade, albeit slowly, through to full sun, given enough water. It is easily grown from fresh seed, germinating in a few weeks. Cuttings can be struck, although they tend to perform less well than seed grown plants. Cultivated specimens survive temperatures of 45 °C (113 °F) down to −7 °C (19 °F); though it is known that trees growing in the mountains can withstand lower temperatures at least to −15 °C (5 °F), and no source provenance selection has been made for cultivation from there. Trees cultivated in western Scotland are stout and hardy. Examples of the species can be viewed at The Tasmanian Arboretum. Both N. cunninghamii and the closely related N. moorei are excellent hosts for epiphytes.


Myrtle wilt, a parasitic fungus, attacks myrtle beech when the air-borne spores settle on open wounds. It is a natural disease of N. cunninghamii, but in recent years it has become a serious problem due to poor logging practices.

Myrtle beech forests cannot survive strong fire, and must re-establish from neighbouring areas. They can, however, survive light fires, by regenerating from seed, or sometimes vegetatively from basal epicormic shoots. Generally myrtle beech forests only form once a wet sclerophyll forest reaches maturity, taking several hundred years to do so.

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