To display a broad representation of the family Araucariaceae and to conserve rare and threatened Araucariaceae. The environment has changed around them, but the trees are a constant in the Melbourne Gardens landscape where the collection is currently scattered throughout the Gardens. Araucariaceae are unique to the Southern hemisphere and are a living link to our ancient past. (Gondwana – super southern continent)
Araucariaceae have small natural distributions. Some of these areas are under threat and conservation of key distribution areas is crucial to the survival of these trees. We must conserve the natural system rather than rely on ex situ cultivation. A feature of Araucariaceae is their symmetry which contributes to its longevity. There are 16 of 19 known Araucaria species represented in the gardens.
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- Nitrogen supply is most critical for the growth of Araucarias followed by Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, Copper, Boron, Magnesium and Iron.
- Require a low Phosphorus native mix
Araucariaceae, notably A. cunninghamii, A. heterophylla and Agathis robusta, dominates the skyline and perimeters of Melbourne Gardens. Significant formal planting was infrequent eg. a pair of Araucaria heterophylla planted c.1880 either side of the F Gate entrance.
In 1851, John Dallachy, the second curator of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens planted the first Araucaria species. He planted Araucaria cunninghamii and A. heterophylla close to the current tea rooms site. Baron Ferdinand von Mueller’s plans of 1865, illustrate choices of shade trees along paths, included is Araucaria bidwilli.
Mueller grouped trees in collections, the most notable of which was a pinetum on the steep banks fronting the YarraRiver. This area is now known as the Hopetoun and Huntingfield Lawns where many remnant pines still display their noble form. Included in this pinetum were Norfolk Island and Moreton Bay Araucarias.
William Guilfoyle transplanted large trees to produce dramatic landscape effects, included were 8.5 to 10 metre Araucaria heterophylla, A. bidwilli and A. cunninghamii. After 1883 he remodelled Mueller’s pinetum collection on the Hopetoun Lawn from regimented avenues to strategically placed specimens now acting as signature trees.
He transported mature trees including Araucarias to the islands in the Ornamental Lake via a pontoon raft.
Araucarias were planted in isolation as emergent elements in the landscape, especially on crests. This enabled them to be viewed from all points of the gardens and surrounding areas.
When Guilfoyle’s ‘Catalogue of Plants Under Cultivation in the Melbourne Botanic Gardens’ was published, present in cultivation were ten Araucaria and six Agathis spp.
From 1970 to 1990, many Araucaria and Agathis species have been planted as part of the ongoing tree replacement program at the RBGM.