National Arboretum Canberra

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Selection and planting history

Selecting the tree species

The trees planted at the National Arboretum have been carefully selected by an expert panel for their conservation status, symbolic nature, aesthetic value and suitability for the site and climate.

Many of the trees for the Arboretum forests were chosen from the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species, an international listing of all trees considered endangered.

From that long list, only trees that could manage Canberra’s variable climate were chosen. The forests also act as botanical arks and seed banks for the future.

Some trees were chosen because they provide outstanding seasonal colour, are a national tree and/or provide habitat for Australian native wildlife.

The expert panel responsible for selecting the trees was chaired by Professor Peter Kanowski from the Australian National University and included botanists, arborists, horticulturalists, consultants, ecologists and taxonomists.

To make ongoing decisions about tree selection, a number of ACT Government representatives, the Forest Management Advisory Committee (FMAC) and others are consulted.

Planting history

Taylor Cullity Lethlean Landscape Architects designed the Arboretum landscape and its forests.


When the Arboretum site was first declared in 2003, it incorporated 3 existing forests - the ninety-year old Himalayan cedars, Cedrus deodara, planted in 1917-1930 and 2010; the ninety-year old cork oaks, Quercus suber, planted in 1917 and 1920 and some mature radiata pines (Pinus radiata) on Dairy Farmers Hill that had survived the bushfires.

It was also planned that an area of pencil pines (Cupressus sempervirens ‘Stricta’) would be replanted to reinstate the visual link with the rest of this forest on Roman Cypress Hill on the other side of the Tuggeranong Parkway. All of Roman Cypress Hill and the land extending to the lake were included in early plans but removed by the time work commenced.


The first ‘new’ tree planted on site was a threatened Australian native species, a Camden white gum (Eucalyptus benthamii). First planted in 2006 by the Head Curator of the Arboretum, Adam Burgess, the Camden white gums continue to thrive in Forest 30.


Four new forests were planted in 2007. These included the threatened Australian native species, a Camden white gum (Eucalyptus benthamii) in Forest 30, critically endangered Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis) in Forest 32, the endangered Mesa oak (Quercus engelmannii) in Forest 21 and the near-threatened Burr oak (Quercus macrocarpa) in Forest 18.


A further 18 forests were planted in 2008, including endangered species:

  • Spanish birch (Betula pendula ssp fontqueri) in Forest 44
  • Saharan or Moroccan cypress (Cupressus dupreziana var. dupreziana) in Forest 40
  • Tarout (Cupressus dupreziana var. atlantica) in Forest 40
  • Buchan blue (Acacia caerulescens) in Forest 13
  • Dragon tree (Draceena draco) in Forest 15
  • Chinese tulip tree (Liriodendron chinense) in Forest 9
  • Maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba) in Forest 27.

Threatened species:

  • Monkey puzzle (Araucaria araucana) in Forest12.

Vulnerable species:

  • Western Queensland white gum (Eucalyptus argophloia) in Forest 19
  • Giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) in Forest 33.

The Spanish birch (Betula pendula ssp fontqueri) is an endangered tree with only small dispersed wild populations surviving in dry woodlands in Spain. The Spanish birches are surrounded by a host forest of silver birches (Betula pendula ssp pendula), a beautiful deciduous tree grown in many countries of the world.

Another forest planted in 2008 was the critically endangered Saharan cypress, (Cupressus dupreziana var. dupreziana) which grows in a small area of the Sahara Desert in the southeast of Algeria.


Twenty-one forests were planted in 2009, including the threatened species:

  • Weeping snow gum (Eucalyptus lacrimans) in Forest 68
  • Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) in Forest 54
  • Taiwanese trident maple (Acer buergerianum ssp. formosanum) in Forest 73.

By the end of 2009, 47 forests had been planted, including the four ‘pre-Arboretum’ forests.

The Arboretum also includes forests of iconic trees such as lone pines (Pinus halepensis), grown from seed from the commemorative lone pine raised from a cone brought back from Gallipoli in 1915 by an Australian soldier, and planted in 1934 at the Australian War Memorial.


Another 22 forests were planted in 2010, including the threatened species:

  • Canary madrone (Arbutus canariensis) in Forest 50, a threatened species endemic to the Canary Islands.
  • South Esk pine (Callitris oblonga ssp. oblonga) in Forest 48
  • Small-leaved gum (Eucalyptus parvula) in Forest 81
  • Wallangarra white gum (Eucalyptus scoparia) in Forest 92
  • Toromiro (Sophora toromiro) in Forest 77, a tree which is extinct in its natural habitat on Easter Island.

Included in the 22 forests planted in 2010 were these three significant species:

  • forests of spotted gum (Corymbia maculata) and red ironbark (Eucalyptus tricarpa), planted in the Australian National University Research Forests
  • English oaks (Quercus robur) propagated from acorns of the oldest exotic tree in the Canberra region.

By the end of 2010, approximately 29,000 trees had been planted and 65 forests were in place, including the four original ‘pre-Arboretum’ forests.

Another highlight was the ceremonial planting of 102 Turkish pines (Pinus brutia) by Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Chief Minister Mr Jon Stanhope, the President of the ACT Branch of the Returned Services League Mr John King, representatives of the RSL and other organisations, on Friday 12th November 2010.


Nineteen forests were planted in 2011, including native Australian trees, deciduous exotics, conifers and cold tolerant palms. Some highlights:

  • Morrisby’s  gum (Eucalyptus morrisbyi) is a threatened native species endemic  to Tasmania. There are only two known natural populations, both near Hobart. This small tree produces cream-coloured blossom from February to May.
  • The European larch (Larix decidua) is a deciduous conifer with golden yellow autumn foliage. Originating from the mountains of central Europe, it can withstand winter temperatures to minus 50 degrees Celsius. The timber is often been used for yacht building and fencing.
  • The Yunnan cypress (Cupressus duclouxiana), an evergreen conifer, is a threatened species endemic to China. Some old growth stands in north-west Yunnan are protected as holy trees in accordance with local Buddhist tradition; however, this species has been decimated by clearing and logging and is now extremely rare.
  • The Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) was chosen for its ethno-botanical value. Osage Indians in the United States used the highly prized timber from this small, deciduous tree to make ‘Osage bows’. The clear yellow autumn foliage emits a faint orange perfume. The fruit, which can weigh up to 250 grams each, are only suitable for livestock consumption.

Forests planted in 2011:

  • Austrocedrus chilensis (Chilean cedar) planted in Forest 57. Native to Chile and Argentina.
  • Araucaria augustifolia (parana pine) planted in Forest 23 in 2011 and 2012. Native to Argentina, southern Brazil and Paraguay.
  • Cedrus libani (Lebanese cedar), the national emblem of Lebanon, planted in Forest 39. Native to Turkey and the Middle East.
  • Ceiba speciosa (Silk Floss Tree) planted in Forest 58. Native to Argentina, southern Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
  • Cupressus duclouxiana (Yunnan cypress) planted in Forest 95. Native to, and only found in China.
  • Eucalyptus morrisbyi (Morrisby’s gum) planted in Forest 85. Native to a small area in south eastern Tasmania, Australia.
  • Koelreuteria paniculata (golden rain tree) planted in Forest 104. Native to eastern Asia, China and Korea.
  • Larix decidua (European larch) planted in Forest 36. Native to the mountains of central Europe, with disjunct populations in northern Poland and southern Lithuania.
  • Luma apiculata (Chilean myrtle) planted in Forest 45. Native to the central Andes Mountains between Chile and Argentina.
  • Maclura pomifera (Osage orange) planted in Forest 102.Native to the Red River drainage of Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas in the United States of America.
  • Populus euphratica (Euphrates poplar) planted in Forest 74. Native to Turkey, south Egypt and across central Asia to China.
  • Pseudopanax ferox (toothed lancewood) planted in Forest 89. Endemic to New Zealand.
  • Schotia brachypetala (huilboerboon) planted in Forest 28. Native to South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
  • Sophora toromiro (Toromiro) planted in Forest77 together with Styphnolobium japonicum (Pagoda tree). Used to occur on Rapa Nui (Easter Island).
  • Styphnolobium japonicum (Pagoda tree) planted in Forest 77 together with Sophora toromiro (Toromiro). Native to eastern Asia and mainly China.
  • Styrax japonicas (Japanese snowbell) planted in Forest 67. Native to Japan, China and Korea.
  • Toona sinensis (Chinese mahogany) planted in Forest 75. Native to eastern and south eastern Asia, from North Korea through China to Nepal, north eastern India, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and western Indonesia.
  • Widdringtonia cedarbergensis (Clanwilliam cypress) planted in Forest 103. Native to South Africa.
  • Zelkova serrata (Japanese zelkova) planted in Forest 84. Native to Japan, Korea, eastern China, Taiwan and the Kuril Islands (Russia).


In February 2012, ACTEW Water launched the Canberra Discovery Garden, a new water wise community education garden. In addition, seven forests were planted in 2012:

  • Cladrastis kentukea (American yellowwood) planted in Forest 97. Native to south eastern United States of America.
  • Davidia involucrata (dove tree) planted in Forest 62. Native to central and southwest China.
  • Diospyros lotus (date palm) planted in Forest 86. Thought to be native to East Asia, but may also have natural populations in Central and West Asia.
  • Jubea chilensis (Chilean wine palm) planted in Forest 26. Endemic to a small area of central Chile. Vulnerable.
  • Magnolia delavayi (Chinese evergreen magnolia) planted in Forest 7. Threatened.
  • Melia azedarach ‘Caroline’, (white cedar) planted in Forest 5. Native to Australia, south east Asia and south Asia.
  • Nothofagus macrocarpa (roble de santiago) planted in Forest 83. Native to central Chile.
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