GONDWANA ARBORETUM Araucaria luxurians at Auckland Botanic Gardens

Gondwana Arboretum

Discover ancient conifers, cycads and ferns in the Gondwana Arboretum and travel back to the primeval forests of 150 million years ago

Ancient trees of Gondwana

Did you know that present-day South America, Africa, Arabia, Madagascar, India, Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica were once connected in the super-continent Gondwana? Even though these places were joined millions of years ago we can still see this history in the plant families we share. Discover ancient conifers, cycads and ferns in the Gondwana Arboretum and travel back to the primeval forests of 150 million years ago.

This collection contains descendants of tree species that lived and grew alongside the dinosaurs. Imagine the thunder of a herd of massive, 16m tall, Brachiosaurus dinosaur running across the horizon. Or a flock of reptile-like early birds (Archaeopteryx) flying above, weaving through the trees, and perhaps pulling seeds out of cones with their toothed beaks.

The trees are grouped according to the countries they grow wild in today. Most belong to the Araucaria family and include the kauri and Norfolk Island pine. Get up close and check out the unusual forms, spiky foliage and peculiar fruits and cones of each individual tree. There is a certain symmetry and perfection to these majestic trees that lived millions of years before humans.

Cultural

The Arboretum is formed of predominantly conifers from the family Araucariaceae (Agathis, Araucaria and Wollemi) and Podocarpaceae collected from Southern Hemisphere countries that were formerly part of Gondwana. They have close ancestral connections to plants which grew in that great pre-historical continent.

These geographic regions are:

1. New Zealand

2. Australia

3. New Caledonia

4. Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island

5. Papua New Guinea, and West Papua

6. Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia

7. South America

8. Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Borneo and the Philippines

9. India

10. South Africa

Associated plants from eras before flowering plants evolved will be added through time including ferns, cycads, Gnetophytes and Ginkgo).

Gardening Tips for Large Trees
  • Trees growing in the Gondwana arboretum are large, and only suitable for wide open spaces such as large sections and farms.
  • Lay organic mulch around specimen trees to promote healthy root systems (and keep mowers outside of the root zone)
  • Planting after autumn rains when the soil is moist and warm allows trees and shrubs to become established before winter. This enables them to withstand dry periods during the following summer.
Conservation

Auckland Botanic Garden holds collections of conifers in the Arboretum which are threatened in the wild and not readily available. If possible plants are collected from the wild and where feasible breeding populations will be assembled.

Research

Horticulturalists at Auckland Botanic Gardens are researching and sourcing other appropriate plants, including understory species that have their ancestral origins in Gondwana for possible inclusion in the arboretum. We are also facilitating research into the evolution and taxonomy of podocarps and Araucariaceae. We are investigating techniques for successful cultivation of difficult species.