Queensland Kauri Pine

Queensland Kauri Pine

A magnificent avenue of Queensland Kauri pine (Agathis robusta) planted along Grey Street, beside South Bank, displays this tree in all its glory. This is a member of an ancient Australian family with fossils dating back epochs to the Jurassic period. It has survived the rise and fall of the dinosaurs and the massive diversification of the flowering plants. For this reason alone, it is iconic. Additionally, its ornamental and economic significance make this a species to be valued.

Agathis robusta. Photograph by Heather Knowles.

A dry rainforest emergent species, two natural populations remain of Queensland Kauri – one between Tewantin and Maryborough on the mainland and on Fraser Island, and the other on the Atherton Tableland. It grows from sea level to 900m in a variety of deep, well-drained soils that include sand dunes, basalt, granite and metamorphic rocks, in mixed forests. They are extremely resilient over a range of climatic conditions with the ability to survive severe storms as well as long term stresses such as drought. The trees are thought to live for several hundred years.

This tree has a straight trunk that is clear for over half of its length and can reach 3 m in diameter, smooth orange-brown bark and a dense crown of spirally arranged, broad, flat green leaves (unlike other conifers which have needle-like leaves). The species name is derived from the shape of the female cones which look like a ball of thread (agathis) and its vigorous growth (robusta).

The inner bark of the Queensland Kauri was used by indigenous people to make nets. From early colonisation, this was a highly sought-after timber tree, with is long straight trunk of broad diameter and fine, straight-grained texture, for indoor uses such as fine cabinetry, joinery flooring, producing plywood and even for making violin bellies, and was heavily logged. Over exploitation combined with the risk of land clearance in its natural populations, has placed this species on the vulnerable list.

Although not a tree for small gardens, it is non-the-less a beautiful feature plant for large gardens and properties. It also makes, with its leathery foliage, an attractive indoor plant and makes a distinctively Australian potted Christmas tree. For those with acreage wishing to grow timber trees, it is recommended that they be planted in a mixed species (e.g. with Brachychiton acerifolia, Backhousia mytrifolia, Flindersia bennettiana  and Rhodamnia trinerva) plantations as monocultures are prone to attack by large stick insects