Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Athrotaxis selaginoides D.Don

Athrotaxus is a genus of two species of Tasmanian conifers although a number of hybrids were given specific status in the early literature.  Athrotaxis selaginoides D.Don is usually a small to medium tree, although the largest of the genus.  Leaves pointed, to 12mm long with glaucous bands above.  To 30m.  [RHSD, Hortus, Hilliers’, APNI].

Horticultural & Botanical History

Athrotaxis selaginoides was introduced to Britain c.1857 [Hilliers’ ].  The data given here suggests an earlier date and it is probable that these two Arthrotaxis species, if correctly identified, were the first live plants of the genus to be sent to England. 

Tasmanian conifers produce valuable timber and were extensively logged.  ‘The pines have a peculiar limitation in their distribution worthy of remark; growing on the margins of small streams or in the alluvial flats along the rivers, they seem to be derived only from the west or south-west sides of the ranges.  The leading mountain chains run nearly parallel with the coast, about N.N.W., and no pines are found along the streams running from their eastern slopes.  In like manner, when the Davey is divided into two branches, about sixteen miles up, the western branch is called the Hardwood River, because no pines have been found along its course.  The other branch which is fed from the south-west slopes of the Frankland Range, is well supplied, and from it the great bulk of the timber is now being procured.  Again, the range from which the Hardwood River derives most of its tributaries, is pine-clad on its south-western slopes, the streams from which run into the sea near Rocky Point.  In Spring River the same feature is observed, and also in the originally named “Spring River” at the extreme eastern end of Bathurst Harbour; and I have no doubt from the formation of the country and my knowledge of the Arthur and Huon Plains, that the Craycroft presents the same peculiarity.  Of the Picton, Gordon, Franklin, and Pieman I do not know enough to hazard an opinion.

At the highest point I visited up the Davey River, where Doherty is at work, are some King William Pines (Athrotaxis selaginoides) whose wood is much more open-grained than Huon pine, and of a red colour.  I have no doubt that towards the Frankland Range they will be found in great numbers.

The pine is not met with near the margin of the salt water, though one spot was pointed out to me on the bank of the tidal portion of the Davey, about half way between the Settlement and Hell’s Gates, which had been a thicket of small pine trees of several acres in extent, not observed until a large fire swept through and killed them.  Some distance up the Crossing River there is an untouched bed of pines, but below it the steep banks of the river have fallen in and blocked up all passage for floating the logs down, affording complete protection to that bed of timber, unless a short tramway is made to surmount the obstacle.

The river has been followed up and the timber along its course gradually cleared out until the beds which produce the present supply are reached, from fourteen to eighteen miles up.’  [Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania p.97/1875-76].

History at Camden Park

‘2 Athrotaxis Sp.’ were sent with a large consignment of native plants to Sir William Hooker on 11th February 1848 [MP A2933-1, p.165].  This is the only mention of these plants but it seems likely that Macarthur attempted to grow them himself.


The plants Macarthur sent to Kew are probably one or both of the two recognized species from Tasmania or hybrids, although Microcachrys tetragona (Hook.) Hook.f., synonyms Athrotaxis tetragona Hook., Dacrydium tetragonum (Hook.) Parl., may also be added to these.  See also Athrotaxis cupressoides D.Don and Athrotaxis x laxifolia Hook.

Published Jul 29, 2009 - 02:41 PM | Last updated Jul 16, 2010 - 04:45 PM

Family Cupressaceae
Region of origin

Australia, western Tasmania

  • Athrotaxis alpina Van Houtte ex Gord.
  • Athrotaxis gunneana Hook. ex Carrière
Common Name

King Billy pine, King William pine

Name in the Camden Park Record

2 x Athrotaxis sp. 

Confidence level medium