, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 125-145
Date: 27 Jul 2010

A Global History of Australian Trees

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Scholars studying the globalization of Australian trees have previously emphasized the rapid natural propagation of Australian trees outside of their native habitats, believing their success to be a reversal of “ecological imperialism” from the “new world” to the “old world.” This article argues that the expansion of Australian trees should not be viewed as a biological phenomenon, but as the result of a long-term attempt by powerful states and state-sponsored scientists to select and breed Australian species that could grow in a variety of climates and ecological conditions. Five non-biological factors largely determined the success of these attempts to grow Australian trees: the abundance or paucity of natural forests, state power, the amount of scientific research directed to planting Australian trees, the cost of labor, and the ability to utilize hardwood timbers and bark. This paper compares the use of Australian trees in Australia, India, and South Africa to demonstrate that biology was not the determining factor in the long-term success of many Australian genera and species.