On Monday 11 December 2017, Mr Andrew Barr MLA, Chief Minister of the ACT, joined Mr Andrew Colvin APM OAM, Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, to plant a Cork oak tree (Quercus suber) in the Cork oak forest at the National Arboretum Canberra.
This Ceremonial Tree Planting marked 100 years of Federal Policing in the year of the Cork oak forest Centenary.
The Cork oak is a medium-sized evergreen tree with a broad spreading canopy, native to southwestern Europe and northwestern North Africa. It has thick, deeply fissured grey bark which is fire retardant. Height 15m. Spread 10m.
A special forest in the Arboretum
The first cork oak seedlings planted at the Arboretum site in 1917 were propagated from acorns sent by Walter Burley Griffin to Charles Weston at the Yarralumla Nursery.
At the time, Walter Burley Griffin, the designer of Canberra, and Charles Weston, the Officer in Charge of Forestry for Canberra, were keen to trial different types of trees in and around Canberra, to see which trees would produce the best timber and other wood products.
Cork was hard to get at the time because of WW1, and that also stimulated demand for growing cork in Australia. Walter Burley Griffin saw the potential for growing cork oaks in Canberra's dry climate and sourced the initial acorns from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. Charles Weston propagated these at the newly established Yarralumla Nursery and they were planted in October 1917.
Charles Weston originally planted the Cork oaks in a quincunx pattern – a rectangular planting of five trees with one tree at each corner and a tree in the middle. This planting pattern gives the forest its radiating cathedral-like avenues.
Ceremonial trees planted from around the world
The National Arboretum Canberra is home to over 44,000 trees from more than one hundred nations. Many Australian and international leaders and public figures have planted ceremonial trees at the National Arboretum, including Their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge; His Excellency Jose Ramos-Horta, President of the Republic of Timor-Leste; renowned Australian author, Mr Thomas Keneally and Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark.
Through ceremonial tree plantings and other special events, the National Arboretum Canberra builds partnerships with local, national and international organisations, individuals and communities to further its role in global tree conservation and research.