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17 Aug 2022

Sappy goodbye! Garden farewells historic pine

One of the most significant trees in the Domain Sydney, the Hoop Pine Araucaria cunninghamii, will sadly be removed this Thursday the 18th of August after a resilient history battling over a century of weather conditions. 

Here is the run-down of how this Christmas-looking Pine, perched on the iconic Mrs Macquarie’s Point with its distinctive hoop like bark, became a treasured part of our Garden's history.  

Originally a 'marker tree'

Historically grown to be marker trees, the Hoop Pine Araucaria cunninghamii tree is believed to have been planted in 1900 by Joseph Maiden, Director of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, who did much to promote the use of a wide range of Australian plants in parks and gardens.

This native Australian species is found in Queensland and New South Wales, originally used by the original custodians of the land, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who warmed the Hoop Pine sap (nalbo) with their fingers to create a glue to bind axe heads and make boomerangs with the timber. 

Marker tree: A tree modified by humans for cultural reasons. For example, First Nations people would use a red gum trees branches and trunk to make a ring mark.  

The bolt that stumped it all

The most prominent weather event leading to its deterioration over the years was a 2017 thunderstorm, which sent an electric wave through the Hoop Pine’s trunk.

Horticulturist at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Scott Jones, said when the tree was struck by lightning it caused damage to the upper canopy, a natural occurence for trees due to their height.   

Curator Manager at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, David Laughlin, said after the tree is cut down with a 90-tonne crane on Thursday the 19th of August, a new Araucaria cunninghamii will be planted in the same spot with its scale-like horizontal hoops and cone shaped structure.

"We would like to replace like-for-like and plant another Hoop Pine, since they were originally used as marker trees. However, keep in mind that it can take at least 60 years of growth for the new tree to reach the same height as the original Hoop Pine" Mr Laughlin said. 

"The tree’s health declined as a result and we made a decision to remove the top third of the tree. Since then, the tree has continued to decline in health and structural condition" 
Scott Jones - Horticulturalist

Say goodbye to the Araucaria cunninghamii

The Hoop Pine Araucaria cunninghamii will be waiting for its goodbyes with a red X at Mrs Macquaries Point in The Domain near the viewing deck until Thursday, 18th August. All of the wood removed will be recycled and given another life.

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