Nothofagus cunninghamii

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Antarctic Beech
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Division: Magnoliophyta
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Class: Magnoliopsida
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Order: Fagales
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Family: Nothofagaceae
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Genus: Nothofagus
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Species: N. cunninghamii
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Binomial name
Nothofagus cunninghamii
(Hook.) Oerst.
Trinomial name
Type Species

The Myrtle Beech (Nothofagus cunninghamii), is an evergreen tree native to south eastern Australia and Tasmania. It grows mainly in the diminishing temperate rainforests. It is not related to the Myrtle family.

These trees typically grow to 55 m tall and have large trunks with scaly, dark brown bark. The leaves are simple and alternate, growing 1 cm 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 flowers are inconspicuous yellow-green catkins. The fruit is a 6 mm, capsule containing three small winged nuts.

Occasionally you will see large orange-like fruiting bodies of a fungus protuding from the trunk.

Uses and cultivation

It is an excellent cabinetry timber with strong, tough, close grain. It is a soft pink, often figured and can be polished to a fine sheen. Used for flooring, joinery, cogs of wheels, and furniture. 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. Density 750-880 kg/m³.

N. cunninghamii is a fairly robust species, requiring around 900 mm of rain spread throughout the year. 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. It can survive temperatures of 45 °C down to −7 °C.

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 can not survive strong fire, and must re-estabilish 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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