Diversifying commercial forestry

Radiata pine (Pinus radiata) accounts for 90% of New Zealand’s planted forest estate. Radiata pine is a fast growing and versatile softwood with a wide range of uses and applications. However, there is a growing need to diversify into other forest species.

Scion is the preferred research provider in New Zealand forest industry’s diverse species programme. The research partnership aims to create high-performance specialty wood products from trees other than radiata pine. Scion, seed and seedling producers, foresters, wood processors and manufacturers are working together to:

  • Reduce the economic and biological risks associated with relying heavily on a single species
  • Increase global opportunities for high value specialty wood products.

Read about forestry partnership to build high-value wood exports

Other exotic forest species

Scion has been investigating the commercial potential of a range of exotic forest species for over 40 years. Opportunities exist for Douglas-fir, coastal redwoods, eucalypts, cypresses and other species.

Read about Choosing the right tree [pdf]


Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is the second most commonly grown plantation species in New Zealand, making up about 6% of the planted forest estate. Its timber is superior to many other softwoods and widely accepted on the world market for strength, toughness, durability and decay resistance. It also grows well in cold, wet and windy parts of New Zealand that are not suited to radiata pine.

Our research has shown that some areas of the South Island produce the highest growth rates and standing volumes of Douglas-fir in the world. We are helping growers realise the full potential of this species by improving wood density and managing branching through selected breeding.

Scion’s forest growth and quality decision support system, Forecaster, can be used for managing Douglas-fir forests.

Download the Douglas-fir Manual [6.2MB pdf]


Eucalypts’ strength and attractive appearance, and in some species, natural durability, make the timber ideal for a range of products from high-quality furniture to fibre for quality papers.

About 22,000 ha of mixed species eucalypts are grown commercially in New Zealand. Matching the correct species to the site is critical for growers to achieve optimum growth and yield. Our research has focused on identifying good establishment and management practices, and on continuous genetic improvement. We have active breeding programmes in place for three species of commercial value: Eucalyptus fastiga, E. regnans and E. nitens with plans to develop other eucalypt resources.

Read about Exciting new possibilities for eucalypts


The wood and processing properties of cypresses make them attractive to end users and growers. Their timbers are highly sought after in New Zealand for internal and external furniture and cladding. Asian markets like cypress timber due to its aromatic qualities.

Scion is at the forefront of cypress (Cupressus and Chamaecyparis) research in New Zealand. We are currently developing superior lines of Cupressus macrocarpa and C. lusitanica with high durability and disease resistance to develop the next generation of cypress hybrid stock. We are also researching several other species of interest.


Coast redwoods (Sequioa sempervirens) grow on a wide range of sites and outperform radiata pine in some areas. They grow rapidly and their longevity means stands can carry huge volumes of wood. The timber is durable or semi durable for external use. The export market for New Zealand-grown redwood is promising, due to the shorter rotation compared with Californian grown redwood.

We are focussing on improving redwood’s durability, density and stability, and there are good prospects for genetic improvement.

Read about New Zealand's coast redwood forestry development plan [pdf]

Other plantation species

A wide range of softwood and hardwood species not currently grown on a commercial scale have been investigated. We have publications on species including: black walnut, blackwood, cryptomeria, larches, pines, paulownia, poplars, silver firs, spruces and willows.

Search our publications database for species-specific information.


Heidi Dungey, Science Leader Forest Genetics

Important partnerships with Māori

Scion is working in partnership with Maori to help grow their cultural, social and economic wealth through forestry and the sustainable use of their land.

Many Māori landowners and trusts are taking a long-term inter-generational approach to land and forest management by reinvesting in their land while retaining environmental and cultural values.

Increasingly, radiata pine is not the preferred choice of species. Instead, iwi are investing in a range of diverse species and evolving programmes in indigenous forestry and products. Special focus is being placed on tōtara and mānuka, their product value chains, and the commercial propagation of these and other indigenous species.

Read about the joint nursery venture between Scion and Ngāti Whare at Minginui.

Indigenous forestry

New Zealand’s indigenous forests are largely protected from logging. However, some species can be grown specifically for timber production, making them a viable alternative to radiata pine or as an option for mixed land-use.

Our work ranges from species selection and propagation to improving timber qualities, to helping grow the economic value of indigenous forestry.

Kauri and tōtara, in particular, could be managed as a future long-term supply of specialty timbers. Our research, combined with new wood processing technologies, helps land and forest owners make comparisons with other forest species to support their investment decisions.

Kauri (Agathis australis)

Kauri grows much faster in planted stands than in natural forests. Commercial yields can be achieved at around 50-60 years in good growing conditions. Opportunities also exist for early value recovery from companion crops or commercial thinning.

Tōtara (Podocarpus totara)

Regenerating tōtara on farmlands has the potential to be managed as a valuable timber resource. Many desirable attributes of old-growth tōtara can be found in young trees in both natural and planted stands.

The Tōtara Industry Pilot (2018-2020) identified viable business opportunities based on sustainable and ecological management of farm-based naturally regenerating tōtara in Taitokerau (Northland). Find out more on the project website.

Timber from the TIP has been used for a wide range of product applications.

Read the project:


David Pont

Mānuka (Leptospermum scoparium)

Mānuka is a fast growing shrub that grows throughout New Zealand. Bees feeding on the abundant white flowers that appear in summer produce honey that is valued for its medicinal properties. Oil extracted from mãnuka is also valued for its anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.

We are working with government and industry to help future-proof the booming mānuka honey and oil industry. Our research focuses on moving from wild harvest mānuka to science-based farming by combining improved genetics with best management practice to increase the yield and reliability of mānuka honey.

Read about:

Other indigenous species

Scion is also studying other indigenous species of interest, including red beech, black beech, silver beech, rimu and puriri.

Mass propagation of indigenous species

Cost effective mass production of seedlings or clones for planting is needed to support indigenous forestry.

Our propagation specialists in propagation have expertise in growing plants from seed, cuttings and using tissue culture techniques tailored to individual species’ requirements.

We also work with industry partners to compare the performance of indigenous tree and shrub species raised as bare-root plants in the nursery with expensive container-grown seedlings. Planting on a range of marginal hill country and riparian sites has shown that establishment costs can be reduced by up to half by using bare-root seedlings of selected species.

Find out more about Scion's nursery


Heidi Dungey, Science Leader, Forest Genetics

Saving endangered indigenous species

We are using over 70 years of applied tree breeding research and propagation expertise to preserve some of New Zealand’s endangered indigenous species, safeguarding their survival for future generations.

Ngutukākā (Clianthus spp.)

Until recently, there were only about 110 ngutukākā known to be naturally occurring in the wild. The shrub’s highly nutritious foliage puts it at risk from browsing livestock and introduced forest pests such as rabbits and goats as well as deer and snails. Introduced invasive plant species such as buddleia and gorse also compete for the same forest environment. Scion has been involved in ngutukākā recovery since 2009, and has perfected a technique to propagate it from vegetative cuttings.

The rare white ngutukākā was assumed to be extinct in the wild, but a chance discovery of viable seeds enabled Scion nursey staff to bring it back from the brink of extinction. Young nursery-raised plants have since been gifted to iwi for transplantation back into enclosed areas.


Other species

We are also working with pua reinga (woodrose) and maukoro (native broom)


Simeon Smaill, Portfolio Leader, Establishing Indigenous Forests