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Main path and alternative (recommended)
from Main Garden Founders Gate

Features marked in blue circle
and yellow letter
(on alternative route)

A. Paper bark (Melaleuca)
B. Pinus roxburghii
C. Pinus nigra 'Larico' Black Butt gum
E. Pinus radiata, some of the oldest in NZ
F. Giant Redwood
G. Douglas Fir
H. Stone pine, Pinus pinea
I. Pinus pinaster, maritime pine

A: Melaleuca, a genus of around 170 species in the Myrtle family (Myrtaceae). The majority of species are endemic to Australia but several occur to the north (e.g. Indonesia, New Guinea, New Caledonia, Malaysia).

Today, tea tree oil, which has antiseptic, antibacterial, and anti fungal properties, is commercially extracted from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia. Cajeput oil, which is used in medicine, is extracted from the leaves of Melaleuca leucadendra and M. cajuputi. Essential oils are extracted from Melaleuca linearifolia.
Melaleuca are commonly known as "Paperbarks" in the tree forms and "Honey Myrtles" in the smaller forms. These names refer to the flaky bark of many species and the nectar produced in the flowers. The term "Tea Tree" is also applied occasionally by this is more commonly used with the related genus Leptospermum.

Melaleuca is closely related to Callistemon ("Bottlebrushes") and differs from that genus in the way that the stamens are connected to the floral tube

Paperbark maintains a more constant temperature for the bulk of the tree trunk. The bark provides good insulation against fire. Paperbark smolders rather than burning. Indigenous peoples sometimes used it for cooking, as we use steamers today, and for storing food. It was also used for bandages, bedding, fire tinder, water craft, fish traps, and for wrapping corpses. They also used it in place of wrapping paper, mattresses, containers, toilet paper, and roof tiles. Some peoples used it for swaddling babies, for patching canoes, as a fire tray and as shelters. Some Aboriginal women used it to make dress-barks. The early settlers used the bark for patching their huts, as trays, and in place of products we now make of cardboard. Today, some people use paperbark in place of foil for barbecuing fish. Paperbark is also used to line hanging baskets, for a more natural look.


Melaleuca viridiflora, the Broad-leaved Melaleuca, occurs across the tropical north of Australia. It grows to a height of 10m (30 feet). The trunk and branches are clothed in thick papery bark, which gives it its common name. Its leaves are amongst the largest in Melaleucas, up to 10 cm (4 inches) long and 5 cm (2 inches) wide. It has bottle brush type flower spikes, which are greenish-cream, but can be pink or red. The flowers have showy stamens, and the profuse blooms produce nectar, which is an excellent food source for native bees, birds and animals, such as flying foxes. It likes sunny positions and tolerates poorly drained soils. It is used extensively in urban landscaping, because of its tolerance of pollution, salt winds, saline soils, wet, and even boggy conditions, but prefers well drained conditions. Although it is a warm climate plant, it will withstand cold if given full sun. It is remarkably free from pests and diseases.


B: Pinus roxburghii, the Himalayan Longleaf or Chir Pine is native to the Himalayan foothills where it grows to a very large tree up to 50 m tall. However it is usually smaller in cultivation. It cannot withstand severe drought. It is three-needled and its long drooping needles are up to 30 cm (12 inches) in length, which only last a year on the tree, the shortest life of any pine needle. Seed was first imported by the Gardens in 1874

The wood is moderately hard, very resinous and can be splintered and used as a torch.
A charcoal made from the leaves, mixed with rice water, is used as ink.
Wood -. Used for construction, shingles, boxes etc. It is useful in cold climates but is not resistant to white ants


C: Pinus nigra var. laricio, is often referred to as the European Black Pine, and has received a substantial number of described names .It is also known as var. maritima and is the Corsican Pine. It comes from Corsica, Italy, and the south of France.

P. nigra is widely used in Europe and the US as an ornamental, and in forestry for shelter belts, and for timber production in areas too cold for the faster growing but warmer requiring species. It is very tolerant of chalk and limestone, and also of urban pollution - perhaps the most pollution-tolerant of any pine. It was one of the earliest European pines imported into the United States in 1759, and is now one of the most commonly introduced ornamentals in the US.. It is a widespread and important timber producing tree in Central and Southern Europe, and continues to be popular as a Christmas tree in the US.
It has a very straight trunk, which makes it suitable for timber, with whitish-brown cracking bark. In Corsica the trees take 180 years to reach maturity, but in NZ only 50. It has gray-green twisted needles in pairs, about 7 inches long (17 cm), and small cones about 3 inches long (7 cm).


D: Eucalyptus pilularis , the Blackbutt Gum distribution favours warm humid climatic conditions. Eucalyptus pilularis grows from Fraser Island in southeast Queensland to the south coast of NSW. Annual rainfall range, 900-1750 mm. Altitude range, near sea level-300 m in the south of its range, and up to 600 m in the north. It belongs to the stringy bark group

Found in the coastal plains and nearby lower ranges, between sea and escarpment of New South Wales and southern Queensland. An important commercial hardwood in eastern Australia.

Occasionally grows very tall long straight trunk, often black in colour at the base if the tree has experienced fire.

Bark is rough, fibrous and spongy at the base, shedding in strips higher up the trunk leaving a smooth grayish white surface above.


E: Pinus radiata
Thomas Coulter at Monterey, California first noted Pinus radiata, in 1830.

Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) is the most widely planted pine in the world. Rapid growth and desirable lumber and pulp qualities cause it to be the leading introduced species in Australia, New Zealand, and Spain and a major species in plantations of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Kenya, and the Republic of South Africa. In these countries, Monterey pine is a mainstay of the forest economy, serving internal markets, generating valuable foreign exchange reserves as an export, and reducing cutting pressure on native forests.

Pinus radiata D. Don shows great variability between individual trees. This genetic variation as scientists have shown, gives the species the potential for genetic improvement through selective breeding'. This has been achieved in New Zealand, where naturalized stocks have formed the base of an elaborate and scientifically based selection programme. While intensive breeding began around 1950, the story of genetic improvement in New Zealand begins with the introduction of the species.

New Zealand's prosperity has depended for many years on the export of timber. The New Zealand industry was from the start firmly based on the kauri tree, although other natives where also important. Captain James Cook, on his first visit (1768-1771) to this country, wrote a glowing report about "the great length of the trees, growing straight as an arrow and tapered very little in proportion to their length." With the loss of the American colonies, Britain had lost its main source of timber, especially that suitable for masts and spars, and Cook's reports provided a solution, especially when he reported that NZ was covered by timber of a “size and every quality that indicates long duration; it grows close to the waters edge and may be easily obtained.” Cook felled and pit sawed into planks the first tree on his second voyage (1772 - 1775). The earliest European extraction, however, occurred when Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne's men hauled a large tree trunk out of the bush in the Bay of Islands in 1772. The first export shipment of timber was dispatched from the country in October 1794, but domestic demand took the earlier production.

To facilitate timber extraction, bullocks where brought in to the country in 1820, and over the next 40 years with improved extraction methods the indigenous stands of timber disappeared altogether from many areas, and became seriously depleted in others. Scholefield noted that in 1871 over three million board feet (1 board foot = approximately 30cm wide, 2.5cm thick and 30cm long) of timber were exported, but by 1891 this had increased to fourty two million board feet. At that time there were reported to be some 250 sawmills processing native trees throughout the colony.

In 1870 James Hector made the following statement in reply to a question from the Government “the rapid destruction of the native forests I consider to be most wasteful, and is having the effect of rapidly reducing the natural resources of the country”. His concern on this issue had been one of the reasons for the earlier establishment of this Garden and the need to find suitable trees to replace the increasingly depleted native stock, especially with the increasing population giving rise to expanding demand for timber and firewood, which could no longer be met from the indigenous stock

Parts of the tussock covered land, especially the Canterbury Plains, lacking trees, where found by the earliest settlers to require trees for firewood and to provide shelter from prevailing winds for stock and homesteads. The first significant tree planting are believed to have been by anonymous settlers and transients, especially gold miners returning from the Californian gold fields, who brought with them seeds of trees they found there, especially Pinus radiata and Cypresses macrocarpa although this is not documented.  J.B.A. Acland on Mt. Peel Station in the Canterbury foothills is credited with the first documented importation of Pinus radiata in 1859.   The first milling of radiata was reported by a Canterbury man (unfortunately undated), indicating likely confirmation of the early planting of radiata in that area.

By 1865 Shepherd states both Alfred Ludlam and Thomas Mason had established Pinus radiata in Wellington and it is likely that they could have made plantings of this tree in the Garden from about this time, although no documentary proof of this has been discovered. There are a number of recorded introductions throughout the country in the early 1860's. Ludlam in particular appears to have had a significant collection of pine species, although Mason also had a number. Ludlam is recorded as receiving radiata material in 1863, Mason in 1865, and Hector in 1868/69. It is understood that following the appointment of James Hector as Scientific Advisor to the Central Government in 1865 work was being done in the Garden by these individuals and John Buchanan before its formal establishment in 1868. Hector is likely to have seen the tree growing in various parts of the country, and realising how successful radiata appeared to be establishing in the country, subsequently lead to the importation of large quantities of Pinus radiata seed and plants to the Garden at the end of the decade and 1870's. Plants and seed where subsequently distributed throughout the country, to individuals, public gardens and acclimatisation societies, eventually providing the 'parents' of New Zealand's radiata forest industry, confirmed by recent DNA analysis of specimens still in the Garden.

Pinus radiata provided many advantages – it grows straight, grows rapidly, is easy to handle, grows well in plantations, is adaptable to most NZ conditions, and provides wood that is remarkably versitile. Its seeds can be collected throughout the year, it transplants easily and requires little care thereafter, responding well to pruning and thinning and can readily be treated with preservatives. Its ability to produce a high quality long fibred pulp adds to its value. Genetically variable it responds well to selective breeding improvement.

Which in a nutshell is the success story of Pinus radiata. This garden played a central role, meeting its founding objective as a 'colonial garden' to facilitate the establishment of the forestry industry.  Pioneers like Hector, Ludlam and Mason amongst others deserve full recognition for the crucial role they played in the introduction of this tree in particular,  a tree on which the countries prosperity still depends on to such a significant degree

It is an important timber tree in several parts of the world, and the number one timber tree in NZ.
Often seen in this area under the pines in autumn is the red toadstool Amanita muscaria a poisonous mycorhizal partner growing on pine roots.

This has worldwide distribution, and is the toadstool of fairy tale fame in European literature. It is small but a giant to 'the little people'.


F: Sequoiadendron giganteum the The Giant Sequioa is a true giant of a tree. It comes from the moist mountain slopes at 1400-2400 m (4500-7500 feet) on the western side of the Sierra Nevada Range in central California, limited to 75 scattered groves. Old trees over 3000 years old have been identified with the General Sherman tree in California estimated to be 3,800 years old. Like Douglas Fir natural root grafting is common. Although it does not grow quite as tall as the Californian Coast Redwood it is far more heavily built and contains the greatest timber volume of any tree. It can grow to 84 m (275 feet) with a trunk up to 13m (40 feet) in diameter at the base. Its reddish brown bark is thick, soft and spongy, which helps to protect it from fire and frost, and also contains tannin that helps to protect the tree from fungus and insects. The bark also has little resin in it compared with pine and spruce, which also helps to make it more resistant to fire. The coarse-grained, very light, soft, rather brittle timber is very durable, and a single tree could provide enough timber for 40 five-room houses. Fortunately this fate does not befall these wonderful trees because they are very rare, and they are protected in US State and Federal National Parks and Forests. Trees of ‘Wellingtonias’ were amongst the first planted in the Garden in the winter of 1871, with a further 24 a short time later. This species is the biggest (but not the tallest) tree in the world and can weigh up to 2000 tonnes. Cones take 2 years to mature. In its native habitat the cones are retained on the tree with viable seed for up to 30 years[. The cones open after the heat of a forest fire


G: Pseudotsuga menziesii, Douglas Fir/Oregon Pine, one of the leading timber trees of the world that produces very fine quality timber.

In North America the red cedar was central to the Native American society, and Douglas Fir became equally essential to the white pioneer society. It became the 'money tree', providing lumber for immediate needs, and could be shipped around the country for construction use. It became the fundamental resource of many pioneer towns and the basis of their economy. It occupied vast tracks along western North America occupying the greatest range of any commercial conifer, being found from northern Mexico to Southeast Alaska. There were extensive old growth groves of giant trees, some of which were 1000 years old. Most of the old trees have been felled, but vast areas have been planted in this fir in New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Argentina, Scotland and Germany. It produces the largest trees of the Pinaceae family.

This tree grows in areas with marked seasonality. The summer and winter growth rings produce alternate bands of soft and hard wood, which gives immense strength, producing a natural 'plywood' effect. Large beams and similar structural elements utilise this timber characteristic. Imported Douglas Fir is superior for this reason to the home grown product.

The tree can live for over 1000 years and trees aged up to 1400 years have been identified.


H: Pinus pinea the Mediterranean Stone Pine also known in older publications as the umbrella pine (obsolete). Sciadopitys verticillata is also known as Umbrella pine, more correctly as the Japanese Umbrella Pine.

The tree has an interesting and distinctive flattened crown like an umbrella, and a straight though often leaning trunk. It can cope with extremes of heat and drought, though it is often stunted in the wild. Its globe-like cones are shiny brown. The bark is reddish-gray and furrowed. It can reach a height of 25 m (80 feet).

It is found from Portugal to Syria, although originally is thought to have come from the Iberian Peninsula, the only area where it is found away from the main trade routes, being introduced into many areas by primitive man.

Pinus pinea was the first pine used and cultivated by man, its edible seeds having been harvested for perhaps half a million years or more. Its seeds have been used for food by prehistoric man, shells being found at many prehistoric sites, and are believed to have been widely traded..

The tree has been cultivated for well over 6,000 years, and possibly for 12,000 to 15,000 years. It is commonly found along the old trade routes. It continues to be widely cultivated through the Mediterranean area, the richly flavoured seeds essential for many Portuguese, Spanish and Italian recipes
In ancient Rome a wine was made from the nuts and evidence from Pompii indicated it was widely used in cooking. The Romans referred to it as the 'Domestic Pine'.

The seed is a good size, up to 20 mm x 10 mm, and is a major source of pinenuts in commerce. The protein content of some pine nuts exceeds that of all other commercial nuts except the cashews, and is comparable to that of beefsteak. The protein quality is also very high. Each cone produces approximately 50 nuts, and a pure stand will produce 500 kg cones per hectare per year, which will give around 100 kg of nuts. The nuts are protected by a very hard shell, but can be released by placing them in a warm oven where they will split open.


I: Pinus pinaster the Maritime Pine, or Cluster Pine in older publications, is native of the western Mediterranean, North Africa, Spain France and the West Coast of Italy, Corsica, Sardine and Malta.. It is a rapidly growing tree to 30 m (100 feet). It does not like drought and frost but does like coastal conditions, and provides good shelter. The maritime pine has beautiful bark, bright reddish- brown, and deeply furrowed in a jigsaw pattern. It produces large heavy needles in bundles of 2. During 1871/72 52 trees were planted in the Garden.

It has attractive cones that are oval, curved, and pointed at one end, and are prized for Christmas decorations in Europe. It is often grown in sand dune country in Europe, and is used for coastal stabilisation in western France and is the main spices in the largest man-made forest in the world at Les Landes SW France, covering an area of 900,000 ha. It was planted for land reclamation purposes to consolidate a large area of shifting sand dunes.

It is important for the production of turpentine, resin and timber and is planted widely as a timber species in Portugal. It has been planted in Western Australia in areas with lower rainfall and poorer soils where P. radiata is not suitable.

A useful pulpwood tree and used for the production of fibreboards. Often planted as a shelterbelt along exposed coasts and also to stabilise sandy soils. It is very tolerant of maritime exposure, but may require staking when it is young.


The Downhill Walk is discussed in a number of sections.

Starting at the Cable Car :

Walk 1 Grass Way
Walk 2 Main Garden
Walk 3 Rose Garden and Begonia House
Walk 4 Bolton Street Memorial Park

Other walks

Walk 5 East Way and Norwood Path
Walk 6 Kowhai Walk

Walk 7 Sculptures