What Is Agathis?

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  • Written By: Kay Blynn
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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Agathis is a genus of evergreen, coniferous trees that grow primarily in the Southern Hemisphere, including southeast Asia, areas of the western Pacific, and Australia. Common names for Agathis are kauri or dammar; in the logging industry it is generally referred to as commercial grade mahogany. Timber from this genus has several uses, including cabinet making, boat building, in musical instruments, and in years past, artificial limbs. It also produces a wide variety of resins.

Agathis is a relatively small genus of trees, including only 21 known species, and is an evergreen, keeping its leaves year round. It is also a conifer, meaning it produces pine cones. Mature trees can become quite large, reaching 130 feet (about 40 m) in height and 10 feet (about 3 m) in diameter.

The bark of most Agathis trees has a shredded look, peeling off the trunk as it grows. The leaves are oval shaped and have a thick cuticle, i.e., a leathery feel to them. Juvenile trees tend to have larger leaves, while mature trees carry leaves that are smaller. Generally, trees in this group can live from 300 to 1000 years.

The timber from these trees is strong, lightweight, and odorless which makes it suitable for a wide variety of products. Agathis dammara, commonly known as the dammar pine, is popularly used to make cabinets, molding, and paneling. The dammar pine can also be grown as an ornamental plant in tropical regions or in greenhouses.


Agathis australis, commonly known as kauri, is exceptionally strong and lightweight and is considered the best timber for boat building. It is also used to create piano parts and for other musical instruments. Many low-priced guitars are made from kauri wood. A guitar made from kauri wood that is 200 years or more old, however, is considered a high end, quality instrument that can sell for top dollar.

Because the wood is odorless, it’s considered an ideal wood for cabinet making and decorative boxes used to hold spices and tea. In the 1800s Agathis became a popular wood for making artificial limbs because of its lighter weight compared to other woods. Agathis timber was generally used to make artificial limbs until plastics became popular during World War II.

Trees in the genus also produce several helpful resins. A resin is a secretion from many plants, particularly conifers. Resins are used in a wide variety of products, including patent leather, nail polish, and adhesives, to name just a few.


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What is Tupu wood?

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