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:

Threatened species:

Vulnerable species:

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:

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:

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

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:

Forests planted in 2011:


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: