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Trees growing by Lake Dobson at Mt. Field National Park, Tasmania [Trevor Hinchliffe].


Lower trunk of a tree on the Central Plateau of Tasmania [Trevor Hinchliffe].


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Conservation status

Athrotaxis cupressoides

D. Don 1838

Common names

Pencil pine; smooth or little-leaf Athrotaxis (Silba 1986).

Taxonomic notes

Syn: A. imbricata Maule ex Gord. (Silba 1986).


"A broadly columnar tree 6-15 m. tall, with ascending branches. Bark brownish-gray, slightly shreddy. Branchlets thick, somewhat fleshy, produced in whorls of 3. Leaves scale-like, dark green, closely imbricate, obtuse, 3-4 mm. long, keeled, with numerous microscopic stomata, margins translucent and denticulate. Male cone at tips of branchlets, globular, 3 mm. long, with 2-4 pollen sacs. Female cone produced on terminal side shoots, pendent, orange, globose, 0.5-1.5 cm. long by 0.6 cm. wide; scales thickened, with a flattened, small, triangular, recurved, apical umbo. Seeds with 2 even wings. Cotyledons 2, germination epigeal" (Silba 1986).

Distribution and Ecology

Australia: W. Tasmania; Launceston, Lake Saint Clair, 640-1067 m (Silba 1986). You can also create a highly detailed map, and access specimen data, using the "search" function at the Australia Virtual Herbarium. Hardy to Zone 8 (cold hardiness limit between -12.1°C and -6.7°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001).

"At the upper limit of tree growth in western Tasmania, often above the regional Eucalyptus timberline, are scattered stands of the endemic pencil pine. The stands occur beside tarns and on the damp shady backwalls of cirques, where the ice lingered in the waning phases of the last glacial period, and snow accumulates each winter. The regional hazard, fire, rarely penetrates these cool rainy heights and some of the trees are over a thousand years old... The old trees carry poor cone crops, seedlings are almost absent, and the distribution and structure of the populations suggest that regeneration is rare and periodic... I envisage pencil pine as a species expanding its range during the cold variable climate of Pleistocene Tasmania and currently 'sitting out' the Holocene in scattered stands above timberline. Such stands have been present throughout their current range on Mount Field for the last thousand years, but the altitudinal locus of regeneration appears to have shifted. Gradual migrations have occurred and local 'even-aged' stands developed. Great longevity allows the species to track environmental variability on a scale of centuries, regenerating mainly in those periods when favourable combinations of circumstances permit" (Ogden 1985).

Big tree


Over 1000 years (6, cited in Ogden 1985).


Use of the species has been reviewed by Palmer, Ogden and Norton (Ogden 1978, Ogden 1985, Norton and Palmer 1992, Palmer and Ogden 1992).



Mount Field National Park looks to be a good place to find it in its timberline haunts.



See also

Farjon 2005.

Gymnosperms of New Zealand.

Native Conifers of Tasmania, a short but interesting and well illustrated site maintained by the Department of Environment and Land Management, Parks and Wildlife Service, Tasmania. Accessed 1999.08.11.

Last Modified 2012-11-23