Note Number: AG1081
Published: January 2003
Updated: July 2009
This note contains general information about slender cypress-pine (Callitris gracilis), its uses and propagation.
Cypress timber and products have been widely used by Aborigines and constitute an important part of Australia's forestry heritage. Slender cypress-pine (Callitris gracilis), native to southern Australia, is a relative to the true cypress genus of the northern hemisphere (Cupressus). It is similar in terms of its growth, form, the habitats it occupies and its versatility and durability as a timber. It also has a natural resistance to pests and diseases making it an attractive farm forestry species.
Similar species to Slender Cypress Pine are Murray Pine (Callitris glaucophylla previously known as columellaris), Shrub Cypress Pine (Callitris verrucosus),and to make this confusing Rottnest Island Pine also known as Slender Cypress Pine and Murray Pine (Callistris preissii)
Slender cypress-pine grows in well drained deep sandy to sandy loam soils associated with woodlands and mallee open scrub on shallow limestone soils. It often forms woodlands with other species such as eucalypts. Its natural distribution is across northern Victoria, extending across southern Australia in the annual rainfall zone of 250 - 500 mm. It has high tolerance to drought and frost and low salt tolerance.
This widespread plant plays an important role in the balanced ecology of plant communities. The seed from the maturing fruits are eaten by galahs and cockatoos. The new foliage often acts as a host to an aphid that secretes a honey dew, which in turn acts as a food source for many of the honeyeater group of birds and wattlebirds. Small insects within the canopy offer food for thornbills, wrens and treecreepers. Two rare birds in Victoria rely upon Cypress Pine woodlands (Grey Crowned Babbler and Apostle Bird). It also stabilises sand dunes.
Slender cypress-pine is a single trunked conical shaped tree with dark green foliage that grows up to 20 metres in height. Stunted forms occur in coastal areas and appear more shrub-like.
The bark is persistent to the small branches, dark grey in colour and irregularly fissured.
Like cypress, it has similar fine thread-like leaves, but these are arranged in whorls of three rather than in opposite pairs. The leaves are scale-like, joined to the twig for most of their length. Each leaf has a cavity containing resin, including pinene, limonene and borneol.
Pollen cones are tiny and very numerous, shedding clouds of pollen into the air at maturity.
Seed cones are borne on the same tree and are more or less globular with three long scales alternating with three shorter ones. The cones are about 3 cm broad with a grey outer surface that can be smooth or dotted with warty resin blisters.
Slender cypress-pine does not produce true flowers but will flower or produce cones in Spring to early Summer. Seed can be collected from November to January when the fruit is mature. The fruit will change from a dark green to a brownish colour when mature. The cones will open naturally when they are ripe, and this cypress-pine releases seed annually.
Cut off branchlets with secateurs and lay fruit on material to dry fully. When the cones have opened, place them in a container and give them a good shake to remove further seed. Pass the seed through a screen or sieve to remove unwanted material and store seed in a cool, dry place.
Each cone holds up to 30 seeds that are brown in colour and ovoid with 2 broad wings, about 0.6 - 0.8 cm wide.
For successful plant propagation, use fresh seed. Prior to sowing, keep seeds moist and cool (2 - 4°C) for 2 - 4 weeks.
For tube stock grown plants, place seeds just beneath propagation mix, or poor sandy soils and keep moist. Place in an area where it doesnt become too hot, cool to slightly warm is ideal. Seedlings grow slowly and require 8 months growth before planting out.
For broad acre direct seeding, sow seed in early to mid winter through a machine tyne just below the surface and press in firmly.
Natural regeneration, direct seeded and planted stock all require protection from rabbits.
Risks and diseases
Slender cypress-pine has few pests being immune to borer, decay and termites.
A Maroong a combined canoe pole and fish spear nearly 4 meters long was made from Slender Cypress pine and used by aborigines along the Murray River.
The colourless crystalline resin known as sandarac exuded from bark wounds and cut stumps was once used to cement barbs to spears and is now used for varnishes and in pharmaceuticals.
Slender cypress-pine has honey-coloured, soft, durable timber that is valued for its resistance to decay and termite attack and borer. The grain is decorative, making it attractive for specialist uses such as craftwood and furniture.
Hardness and durability
Callitris is the worlds hardest softwood timber. The timber has a Class 2 durability rating, which is high durability with an expected in-ground service life of 15 - 25 years. The timber has a green density of 850 kg/m ³ and an air-dry density of 700 kg/m ³.
Shrinkage and drying
Shrinkage is indicated by the difference between green and air-dry density and is due to moisture loss from the timber on drying. This is about 2% through and 2.6% across the face of back-sawn boards from slender cypress-pine. The timber seasons well in air-dried stacks and there is low tendency for green wood to split.
The timber of slender cypress-pine is ideal for the following uses:
- Internal flooring
- Posts and poles
- Beehive construction
- Craftwood and turnery although the wood is somewhat brittle and the sawdust may cause irritation.
Bird, P.R., (2000) Farm Forestry in Southern Australia: a focus on clearwood production of specialty timbers, Victoria, Australia: Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
Boland, D.J., Brooker, M.I.H., Chippendale, G.M., Hall, N., Hyland, B.P.M., Johnston, R.D., Kleinig, D.A., Turner, J.D., (1992) Forest Trees of Australia, Melbourne, Australia: CSIRO Publications.
Bonney, N., What Seed is That?, Finsbury Press Pty. Ltd.
Costermans, L., (1981) Native Trees and Shrubs of South Eastern Australia, Sydney, Australia: Weldon Publishing..
Greening Australia (undated) Indigenous Plants of the North Central Victoria: a revegetation guide. ISBN 0 7311 5241 7.
Gymnosperm Database, Callitris taxon see http://www.conifers.org/cu/call/index.htm and follow links
Keane, P.J., Kile, G.A., Podger, F.D., Brown, B.N., (2000) Diseases and Pathogens of Eucalypts, Melbourne, Australia: CSIRO Publishing.
This note was originally authored by Lesley Cameron and published in January 2003. It has been reviewed & updated by Virginia Forrest in May 2008 and Paul Turnbull in July 2009.
Published and Authorised by:
Department of Environment and Primary Industries
1 Spring Street
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