Gift carries story about rose mahogany and doors that open to a subtropical rainforest

Mon 13 Mar 23


Stepping down as chairman of Responsible Wood, Dr Hans Drielsma AM was presented at a board meeting in Brisbane with a hand-crafted pen box made from rose mahogany (Dysoxylum fraserianum).

An interesting wood species, indeed, and this time selected from an old tree in a certified forest in southern Queensland.

The gift was crafted by well-known Queensland timber identity John Muller at his Wood Addiction workshop at Balmoral Ridge atop the Blackall Ranges and overlooking the Sunshine Coast.

Incoming chair of Responsible Wood Dr Tony Bartlett (right) and CEO Simon Dorries (left) present a rose mahogany pen box to outgoing chair Dr Hans Drielsma AM at a board meeting in Brisbane. Looking on are Jonathan Tibbits, marketing and communications, and Matt de Jongh, sustainability manager.

John, former owner of Tasbeam and founding president of the Glued Laminated Timber Association of Australia, was also first president of the Blackall Ranges Woodcrafters Guild, more widely known as the ‘Woodies’.

It took the talented and dedicated ‘Woodies’ more than 1000 hours to carve two beautifully crafted rose mahogany doors for the Mary Rainforest Discovery Centre, gateway to the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, 55 ha of sub-tropical rainforest overlooking the Glasshouse Mountains landscape, so named by Captain James Cook when he sailed up the eastern coast in 1770.

Maleny is a rural town and locality in the Sunshine Coast region of Queensland and was a timber town until the early 1920s and then a centre of dairy production and fruit growing.

The reserve is home to 391 plant species, 141 bird species, 68 species of mammals, reptiles and amphibians, an unspecified number of invertebrates and numerous fungi.

The doors were designed by David Southern and feature carved trees and vines from local red cedar.

At the opening of the rose mahogany doors at the Mary Cairncross Rainforest Discovery Centre are, from left, Member for Glasshouse Andrew Powell, Mayor Mark Jamieson, designer Dave Southern, ex-councillor Jenny McKay and Blackall Range Woodcrafters Guild (Woodies) past president John Muller of Wood Addiction.

For some background on rose mahogany, John Muller pointed us in the direction of Morris Lake who worked for the Queensland Department of Primary Industries from 1961 to 1998 and since retiring has served in the International Wood Collectors Society and as its publications chairman.

Morris has written several books, including Australian Trees and Shrubs, and previously edited the IWCS journals World of Wood and Down Under. He has produced, authored or co-authored more than 450 publications.

The world-class Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve Rainforest Discovery Centre at Maleny, Queensland in Australia.

Rose mahogany resembles most of the mahogany types of the world, particularly Honduran mahogany (Sweitenia macrophilia); which is a comparative standard in describing other woods, thus its real name of rose mahogany was set by the Queensland Forestry Service.

The species was much sought after and was abundant in the 1920s in commercial quantities. However, it was exploited fairly heavily in regions of the Queensland-NSW border and around Dorrigo after the extraction of cedar left a gap in supply of top quality furniture timber.

It soon became scarce. Not much is available today and most rosewood mahogany trees are protected in heritage rainforest areas where there are some quite big examples.

The Meliaceaes are the true mahogany family that includes red cedar (Toona ciliate), white cedar (Melia azedarach), emu apple (Owenia spp) and the bastard and scentless rosewood Synoum glandulosum.

As early as 1820, rosewood was used in furniture in NSW Government House and is familiar today as a street tree in the easter suburbs of Sydney. So, although few in number, they are still to be found.


  • Jim Bowden

    Jim Bowden, senior editor and co-publisher of Wood Central. Jim brings 50-plus years’ experience in agriculture and timber journalism. Since he founded Australian Timberman in 1977, he has been devoted to the forest industry – with a passion.


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