Bitter Bark

    (Alstonia constricta)


Also known as: Quinine tree/bush

Quite common as a small tree or shrub, Bitter bark doesn't often get as big as the pictured specimen at about 300mm diameter, but it is known to reach 12 metres high. It is very aptly named which you discover as soon as you cut into the thick, spongy bark. Without actually smelling anything, you experience a foul, metallic sort of taste in the mouth and a general feeling of discomfort. Sawing this specimen into boards turned out to be a really obnoxious job (trying not to use any french here!).


 (And before the tree-huggers get on their soapboxes, the tree was regrowth on grazing land which was about to be cleaned so it was me or the blade-plough. Get over it!)  
Bitterbark is used in homeopathy to treat malaria as well as having other medicinal uses.  
The 'other' natural enemy of Bitter bark are these little guys. The tree often appears as a thicket of seedlings and these fellas are about 80mm long and can strip the lot in a couple of days.
The timber is quite ordinary color-wise and is prone to mould if it doesn't get enough air while drying but is fairly stable with regard to shrinking/cracking. It turns quite well and sands and finishes nicely.
The small bowl pictured was just a test (for both the wood and my skill) to see how thinly I could turn it. The wall of the bowl is roughly 0.5mm thick as a light arranged above it demonstrates.



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