Rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum) is the commonest and most widely distributed conifer in New Zealand, growing from Northland down to Stewart Island. It is a tall tree, and its crown usually emerges above the main canopy of forest trees. On well-drained fertile sites, it grows to 50 metres in height. Rimu usually favours better drained sites than kahikatea, but does grow in poorly drained soils in Westland.
Rimu can live for more than 1,000 years. A life-span of 550–650 years is more common, as old trees become susceptible to uprooting in strong winds. Seedlings will not grow in deep shade or on open, exposed sites. Mature trees often support a crop of perching plants on their upper branches. For example, northern rātā often starts life as a young seedling high up in the crown of a mature rimu.
Rimu was the principal native tree milled following European settlement. Peak production occurred just after the Second World War, to meet the great demand for new houses. The reddish-brown timber was used for framing, weatherboards, flooring, doors and panelling. Today, recycled rimu is popular for furniture.
In guitars, as with furniture, Rimu is a very solid wood for use with solid body electric guitars. Because the density is very varied, it cannot usually be relied upon for good neck builds, but certain pieces are certainly strong and straight enough for use with necks. As it is quite a dense wood, it isn’t fully suitable for soundboards on Acoustic guitars, but is certainly very decorative and has a good grain. It is of an orange to brown colour.