Cook’s ‘Gondwana’ Pine

Clive Blazey explains why it thrives in gardens of all sizes and in all mainland capital cities

Cook's ‘Gondwana’ Pine

The landscape of southern Australia today has the declining remnants of planting decisions made about 100 years ago.

Our fastest growing native tree, the eucalypt, is unfortunately even more flammable than the cypress or Monterey Pines (Pinus radiata).

So now we have to find better, non-flammable replacements for our warming climate. Fortunately, we have lots of native trees that are barely flammable, that survive dry periods and also produce delicious cooling shade, and some even have ecological traction, having evolved in the Gondwana period, over 215 million years ago (see timeline on page 18).

The excitement over the Wollemi Pine was misplaced because it's growing range is so limited. However, we do have lots of survivors from the era of the dinosaurs and the break-up of the single continent of Pangea, such as Araucaria columnaris (Cook's ‘Gondwana’ Pine) which thrives in every mainland capital.

Most gardeners are familiar with the Norfolk Island Pine which is planted beside the sea and in coastal parks everywhere, however its form is stiff and its width at ground level prohibitive.

Cook's ‘Gondwana’ Pine, on the other hand, is the gardener's choice because it takes up less space (ground width) than any tree except a palm (just 10m2) reaching heights in excess of the proverbial Catholic church or ten story building. Cook's ‘Gondwana’ Pine predates dinosaurs by 50 million years, Eucalypts by 160 million years and thrived at the time of Gingkos, Horsetails, Cycads and Ferns.

Named after explorer James Cook when he landed in New Caledonia, Araucaria columnaris can reach 60 metres tall in its local forests, hence its species name referring to its column-like form. Just as the Italian Cypress is iconic in Tuscany, the Cook's ‘Gondwana’ Pine will undoubtedly become Australia's signature tree.

The iconic Cypress trees in Tuscany

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Clive Blazey

Clive is the founder of The Diggers Club, a pioneer in the rescue of heirloom vegetable and fruit varieties and author of seven books on flower, vegetable and fruit gardening.

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