Age and beauty – the Pencil Pine

The Pencil Pine (Athrotaxis cupressoides) is one of the more remarkable species that you’ll find in the Tasmanian mountains. It’s a amazingly hardy tree, endemic to Tasmania and generally growing between 700-1300m – thriving in exposed areas where most other vegetation struggles. Unfortunately it’s also severally threatened – many of Tasmania’s significant populations destroyed by fires over the last 150 years.

This particular specimen is even more remarkable than usual – I found it right on the upper limit of it’s altitude range, at about 1300m in the heavily exposed saddle between Mt Ossa and Mt Doris. Usually Pencil Pines in this type of location grow as stunted dwarf pines, clustering together for protection. This one has gone it alone though, and rather than growing vertically, it’s spread prostrate as a gigantic shrub, clinging to the surrounding dolerite scree for protection and presumably warmth. Pencil Pine is an extremely slow growing tree and I would estimate that an example this mature would be around 1200-1300 years old.

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