Up Close: tall and proud Norfolk Pines

Posted on March 6, 2016 | Comments Off on Up Close: tall and proud Norfolk Pines


Welcome to Up Close, a new column by Claire Norman where she takes a closer look at the beauty and the story behind objects we may pass by every day and not even notice….

N I Leaf spirals

What is it?

Norfolk Island Pines : Scientific Name – Araucaria heterophylla

Find them:  throughout the Bluestone Magazine region – bordering major streets and highways in many of the towns as well as in Botanic Gardens and private gardens. Also found in many coastal towns around Australia.

N I Pine

Facts and Figures:

– known as Norfolk Island Pines, they are in fact found on many islands across the Pacific Ocean especially New Caledonia.

– the N I Pine has a distinctive symmetrical pyramid shape. At full maturity, the shape becomes less symmetrical.

– an ideal coastal tree growing well in sandy soils and very windy, salty conditions.

–  can grow to 65 metres tall with a trunk diameter of over 2 metres and a canopy spread of up to 15 metres. (Note, perhaps not suitable for the front garden!) It has a massive root system and a lifespan of at least 170 years!

– spotted by Captain Cook on Norfolk Island (1774). He thought the long straight trunks might be suitable for masts for sailing ships. However, the timber was not strong enough and was better suited to the plywood industry or woodturning.

join us2

– first planted in Belfast (Port Fairy) on private property in 1852. Public plantings started in early 1870’s in that area. An “Arbour Day” in 1903 saw 109 street trees (nearly all N I Pines) planted mostly in Gipps Street with the trees donated and planted by groups and individuals in the region.

the Port Fairy specimens are the oldest surviving street tree plantings in Victoria of a single native species and are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

– mass planted in various parts of Warrnambool in the first decade of the 1900’s at the suggestion of Charles Scoborio who was then curator of the Warrnambool Botanic Gardens. Many of these trees and plantings were listed in the 1983 Warrnambool Heritage Study with the N I Pine considered to be a ‘signature tree’ for Warrnambool’s central area.

– many of the Bluestone region’s specimens of N I Pine appear on the National Trust Database as trees and tree avenues of significance.

– paint colours for the exterior of the Warrnambool Art Gallery were selected from the colours evident in the bark of nearby N I Pines.

N I Bark

– flocks of long billed corellas have persistently attacked the crowns of many of the N I Pines along the southern coast of Australia, seeking seeds from the occasional cone or pulling off leaves and lifting bark to feed on insects. Once the top of the tree is severely stripped of leaves by the corellas, it is unlikely to regenerate or regain its original shape.

– N I Pines are considered by SMH journalist Michael Pascoe to be tenacious and self-propagating invaders without nectar for birds (the Sydney climate is much more suited to seed production and self-propagation)

– the cloudy sap is very sticky and drips slowly forming tear-like ‘dribbles’ from areas of damaged bark or stems.

– N I Pines are grown as ornamental house plants in the Northern Hemisphere’s cold areas and outdoor plantings of N I Pines are banned in Florida as their height is likely to attract lightning and then cause damage if they fall.

N I Fallen stems

Best features:

– the fallen stems slowly age from green to a range of Autumn colours.

– N I Pines add landscape design to an area on a macro scale. They are clearly visible as a sign of a township from out on the road or out at sea and add a sense of majesty to a street, such as the dignified avenue leading to the war memorial in Warrnambool or bordering the coast at Port Fairy.

N I Pt Fairy coast1

– The N I Pine is the perfect shape to be seasonally dressed as a Christmas tree whether young in a pot or fully grown.

– On a micro level, the leaves are arranged in an orderly spiral around the stem with mature leaves taking on a thicker shape and darker green colour than the juvenile leaves.

N I Leaf

N I Leaf symmetry

 – If you take a closer look, you will see the symmetry of the tree is matched by the symmetry of stem growth.

N I Silhouette

And finally….the dense stems can create a strong silhouette against a clear sky. When we see this silhouette, we know we are home.

Norfolk Island Pines – you will start to see them everywhere, so take a closer look.

– Claire

You can find more of Claire’s Up Close columns here.

Enjoy our other Bluestone columnists …


Great architectureClinton Krause on mid-century architecture in the south-west

Great insights: Jo Canham on life in Port Fairy

Great books: Claire Norman’s Bool Belle book reviews

Great food and gardening tips: Kylie Treble and Food for Thought


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