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Southbank Residents Association

06 Jun 2017

Southbank Residents Association Image

The intriguing mystery of the errant Hoop Pine

My favourite season, autumn, is now behind us and winter has kicked in right on cue.

While walking around our streets, admiring the falling autumn leaves of the deciduous trees in Southbank, I passed a newly-planted tree that stood out – not because it was young and new, but because it was evergreen and a pine.

This pine is establishing its home on a small grassy verge at the front of 20 Kavanagh St and it has clearly been planted by the City of Melbourne. It just doesn’t look right. Have you seen it?

I have since done a little research on this tree and have learned it is a Hoop Pine or Araucaria Cunninghamii. Hoop Pines were a common fixture through Melbourne’s parks and gardens in the late 1800s.

There is still a beautiful specimen in the botanic gardens, which is 33 metres tall and 4.3 metres wide. Hoop Pine is a native conifer and could grow to up to 40 metres tall over 450 years. The more I learned about this tree, the more questions it raised.

It has been planted just over a metre from the footpath edge on a patch of lawn which I consider to be in shade for nearly 80 per cent of the day, which seems to be counterproductive to its suitability.

If this tree is to grow to its full height, then  it won’t take long for the its trunk and branches to penetrate the footpath.

I thought maybe this tree is only expected to have a street life of a few decades under a council ecology plan, so I turned to the City of Melbourne’s Southbank Urban Forest Plan 2015-2025 expecting to find an answer.

Unfortunately, I could find no mention of Hoop Pines for Southbank in this plan. However, I could find mention of Hoop Pines in the Central City Urban Forest Plan. In this plan Hoop Pines are considered for park edges and reserves. This location is neither.

More interestingly though, is that the Southbank Plan says there are limited opportunities for planting on nature strips or centre medians. It does recommend species that are going to provide maximum canopy and shade potential. I am not sure that a Hoop Pine would achieve this in that location. However, the Plan identifies that “Kerb outstands should be considered as opportunities to plant species drawn from a wider palette that are unique to that location or intersection and provide visual interest.”

I would be prepared to accept this species is certainly unique to the location and provides visual interest. After all, it certainly grabbed my attention.

There is a proposed species palate within the Plan and Hoop Pine is not one of the suggested species.  I wonder if this is a species that the City of Melbourne is planning on introducing throughout Southbank or if it is just a one-off planting.

Personally, as this species matures I feel it would be impractical and ugly on the Southbank streetscape.

I might ask the city’s chief arborist for clarification so the Southbank community can be better informed, but I’d also be interested in the opinions of others too.

On another note, our organisation’s Annual General Meeting will be held in the coming months. We’ll be on the hunt again looking for enthusiastic residents to join our committee.

You don’t need a tonne of skills, just enthusiasm and an interest in Southbank. We’ll have a variety of roles available and plenty of opportunities to contribute.

Volunteering in your community is a very rewarding experience and a quality that potential recruiters often look for.

If you are remotely interested please drop us a line ( and we will be in touch to answer any and all questions you might have about what’s involved. We already have one interested member, so you won’t be the only one.


Tony Penna - President

Southbank Resident Association

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