Australia is a mega-diverse continent in terms of biodiversity with more than 80% endemism in its more than 44 000 flowering plants. Two of the most visible tree genera, Eucalyptus and Acacia, together comprise about 2 500 species (Anon 1998, 2002e,f).
Australian timber was exported long before the country shipped wool, wheat, butter, fruit and metals to Europe. These timbers were known for their exceptional hardness or, conversely, for the ease with which they could be worked. In addition, Australian trees have over the past century yielded a number of other goods of importance to the national economy. Reportedly, about $US 200 000 worth of routine, a eucalypt extract, was exported from Australia to the USA every year in the 1960s (Stivens 1966). In the 1950s, cineole-rich foliar oil from Eucalyptus polybractea, was an important commodity, as is presently foliar tea tree oil extracted from Melaleuca alternifolia (Anon 1994). Exporting seed from State Forest Services generated trade benefits to Australia of around $A 5 million per year in the 1980s (Anon 1988), and the 25-30 tonnes of seed annually exported from Australia in the 1990s were reportedly valued at some $A 9-12 million (Anon 2002f).