Characteristics of King Billy Pine (Athrotaxis selaginoides) in the Wild

Athrotaxis selaginoides
King Billy Pine (Athrotaxis selaginoides) is a species of conifer tree endemic to Tasmania, where it grows at an altitude of 900-1,200 m asl. Its natural habitat is in the mountains, and it snows in winter.

This tree is often called King Billy Pine or King William Pine, believed to refer to the Tasmanian native William Lanne, although it is not a true pine.

King Billy Pine is currently in decline, a major cause in the past was logging and fires, with about a third of its habitat burning in the twentieth century. Like the other two Athrotaxis species, Athrotaxis selaginoides are very sensitive to fire. The overall decline is estimated at around 40% over the last 200 years. This falls within the three-generation time limit where one generation is estimated to be at least 100 years old. Although 84% of forests are now in protected areas, fires are still a potential hazard.

Tasmanian government policy prohibits the felling of King Billy Pine trees inside and outside protected areas. The IUCN Redlist has also categorized the species Athrotaxis selaginoides into Vulnerable (VU).

 

Characteristics of King Billy Pine Leaf

Athrotaxis selaginoides Leaf
Source: inaturalist.org/birdmandan

The leaves are claw-like, 7-18 mm long and 3-4 mm wide, spirally arranged on the shoot.

 

Characteristics of King Billy Pine Fruit

Athrotaxis selaginoides Fruit
Source: inaturalist.org/tammor

Cones are spherical, 15-30 mm in diameter, with 20 to 30 scales arranged in a spiral. They mature about 6 months after pollination.

 

Characteristics of King Billy Pine Tree

Athrotaxis selaginoides Tree
Source: inaturalist.org/heidikraj

The slow-growing King Billy Pine can reach a height of 30 meters, with a trunk diameter of up to 1.5 meters. The bark is orange-red, slightly notched, and peeled off into long strips. The branches are erect. In extreme locations, this tree grows like a bush or creeps on the ground.

Trees in the collection can be seen at The Tasmanian Arboretum. Far from its native area, King Billy Pine is sometimes cultivated as an ornamental tree, for example in northwestern Europe. This tree is known to grow successfully in Scotland, where it receives sufficient rainfall for good growth and produces fruit with fertile seeds there.

 

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