On 11 November 2015, Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visited the Arboretum and each planted a Pin oak ‘Freefall’ tree.
Accompanied by Mr Andrew Barr, Chief Minister of the ACT, Their Highnesses walked through the Discovery Garden, meeting children from Giralang Primary School and Arboretum staff.
Mr Andrew Barr thanked Their Royal Highnesses for visiting Canberra and spoke about the history and community significance of the Arboretum.
While Their Royal Highnesses planted and watered a Pin oak ‘Freefall’ tree each, one of Canberra’s most prominent youth choirs, the Woden Valley Youth Choir, performed their song Growing into Me which was composed specially for the National Arboretum Canberra.
Their Royal Highnesses and the ACT Chief Minister then toured the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection, meeting the Collection’s Curator Mr Leigh Taafe, the Assistant Curator, Mr Shannon Young, and volunteer Mr Jim Miller.
After signing the Arboretum’s Visitors Book in the Village Centre, Their Royal Highnesses took their time to shake hands and chat with members of the public where they received a warm welcome from everyone present.
The two Pin oak ‘Freefall’ trees planted by Their Royal Highnesses are the first of an avenue of trees planned for the Events Terrace and will be a lasting legacy of their visit to Canberra. As they grow to their full height of up to 25 metres over the next 80 years, these trees will provide cooling shade in summer and spectacular colour in autumn.
The Pin oak 'Freefall’ (Quercus palustris ‘Freefall’)
The Pin oak ‘Freefall’ grows to about 25 metres high and 15 metres wide and can take around 80 years to attain mature height. It is a large, long lived and stately deciduous tree, renowned for its spectacular red-brown autumn colour as well as its inviting, leafy green summer appearance.
The Pin oak is native to eastern North America and usually holds its dead leaves through winter until the following spring. The cultivar 'Freefall' was developed through research in Canberra, Australia, to overcome this character and fully defoliate after the autumn colour show.
In the 1960s, Dr Robert Boden OAM and his team took cuttings from Pin oaks that fully defoliated in autumn and trialled them at the Yarralumla Nursery. Apical buds taken from these trees were grafted onto Pin oak seedlings. These were the first plants of the cultivar 'Freefall', which was developed specifically for Canberra.
The Pin oak 'Freefall' has a strong resonance for the Canberra community through its extensive use as a street tree. The Arboretum has a forest of Pin oak ‘Freefalls’ located in Forest 41, just south east of the Events Terrace.
Ceremonial trees from around the world
Many world leaders have planted ceremonial trees at the Arboretum, including Mr Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations Secretary- General; Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark; Mr David Noble, discoverer of the Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis); Their Excellencies General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC and Lady Cosgrove; the Sultan of Brunei, Sa’adul Khairi Waddien; Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and now Their Royal Highnesses the Price of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall. Read more about ceremonial tree plantings at the Arboretum .
Through ceremonial tree plantings and global tree conservation and research, the National Arboretum Canberra develops bonds with local, national and international communities. It is home to over 44,000 trees from more than one hundred nations.