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.

Libocedrus tetragona Endl.

Fully hardy coniferous pyramidal tree with leaves in four ranks, giving shoots a four-sided appearance, and small cones.  To 35m or more.  [RHSE, Hortus].

Horticultural & Botanical History

Introduced to Britain in 1849. [RHSD].  This date of introduction, some years after the species was originally botanically described, casts some doubt on this identification, but it is quite possible that live plants reached Australia before Europe.  But see also the Notes on this plant.

History at Camden Park

Listed in the 1845, 1850 and 1857 catalogues [C.54/1845].


Another possibility is Libocedrus doniana Endl. [now generally known as Libocedrus plumosa (D.Don) Sargent] of New Zealand.  It is possible that Bidwill considered the New Zealand tree to be Libocedrus tetragona and presented it to Macarthur accordingly.  More research is needed here.  ‘The Kawaka, (Libocedrus Doniana,) is a middle-sized hard-wooded tree of the Pine family. It is sparingly found and generally at much higher elevations than the larger timber trees, hence it is not much known. It is confined to the North parts of the Island, where it attains to a height of from 30 to 40 feet, (or more) and from 2 to 3 feet in diameter. Its wood is dark coloured, beautifully grained, close and heavy; well suited for picture frames. In the lower part of its trunk the wood is said to resemble the “tulip-wood” of New South Wales. This tree is very closely allied to the famed “Alerse” (Thuja tetragona) of South Chili and the Straits of Magellan; and is believed to be a very valuable wood.’  [Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute, 1868].  The question mark William Macarthur placed after Pinus alerse in his catalogues strongly suggests that he was unsure of its identification.

We must also consider Libocedrus bidwillii Hook.f. for the same reasons.  It resembles  L. plumosa, differing in its smaller size, smaller leaves and cones, and in the four-sided character of the ultimate branchlets, being very similar to L. tetragona in this regard.  It is usually a bush at higher elevations, or in wet situations.

Published Jul 16, 2009 - 05:03 PM | Last updated Jul 16, 2010 - 05:11 PM

Family Cupressaceae
Region of origin


  • Thuja tetragona Hook.
  • Pilgerodendron uviferum Florin
  • Juniperus uvifera Don
  • Libocedrus uvifera Pilg. in Engl. & Prantl.
Common Name

Alerse Tree, Alerse Pine

Name in the Camden Park Record

Pinus alerse (?) Alerse Pine 

Confidence level medium