Monday, 22 December 2014

Post 187 Australian conifer species

Prospective native Australian tree - Mount Spurgeon Black Pine (MSBP)

Many in local bonsai circles are taken with the Japanese Black Pine, but not many people realise that we have our own indigenous ‘black pine’. Prumnopitys Ladei is a real mouthful but it is within the Pinales order along with every other conifer you could imagine. It is in the Podocarp family and so is closely related to things like the Podocarpus – or Podocarpus elatus (Brown Pine or Plum Pine or Illawarra Plum).
Prumnopitys ladei, is endemic to the Atherton Tablelands of north Queensland. The distribution is rare with plants only found growing on the granite-derived soils of Mount Spurgeon and Mount Lewis at elevations of 1000-1200 m.  P. ladei has been included in the Rare or Threatened Australian Plants list.

 The small distribution is in sharp contrast with the adaptability and hardiness of this conifer that shows great horticultural potential. Although found naturally in the wet tropics, it can be grown successfully in sub-tropical and cooler districts, such as Canberra.
It is a slow growing and very long lived species which can reach 20m in its natural rain forest habitat. 
 The leaves are small and are similar to those of the yew; strap-shaped, 10-40 mm long and 2-3 mm wide, with a heavy but soft texture. 

The seed cones are highly modified, reduced to a central stem 1-5 cm long bearing several scales; from one to five scales are fertile, each with a single seed surrounded by fleshy tissue like a berry. This is a little similar to the podocarpus fruit.

In an open space it has a typical attractive coniferous upright conical shape very like swamp cypresses of a similar age.

It is suggested that the MSBP is a Gondwana plant – along with the Wollemi Pine. Here is a picture of the Wollemi leaf structure.
By comparison the Wollemi leaves are 30 to 80 mm long and 2 to 5 mm wide, not such a good bonsai prospect.

The leaf structure is very similar to the Coastal Redwood/ Californian Redwood of the USA north west coast (Sequoia sempervirens). The redwood is regularly used for bonsai in the 
The other tree with a similar foliage pattern is the Swamp Cypress even though it might be much softer and lighter weight

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