22 December 2022

The remarkable pine that got its start in Tumut now shimmers in Government House

| Edwina Mason
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Government House Christmas tree

The five-metre-tall Christmas tree, which started life as a seedling at Blowering Nursery near Tumut, has twinkled its way to the top and now sits in the iconic foyer of NSW Government House in Sydney. Photo: NSW Government House.

It’s been officially confirmed by Government House that – again – a pine tree grown in Marulan is taking pride of place as the official Christmas tree in the residence of the NSW Governor Margaret Beazley.

The radiata pine is traditionally sourced from Penrose State Forest, near Marulan, and is gifted to the governor each year as a visual reminder of the forestry industry and the value it provides.

The five-metre-tall Christmas tree, which started life as a seedling at Blowering Nursery near Tumut, has taken its rather commanding position in the building’s iconic foyer.

Forestry Corporation’s Moss Vale area supervisor Tom Bagnell said this particular tree started life as one of about nine million seeds sown in 2015.

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“From there it spent the next five years in our Penrose State Forest pine plantation before being harvested for this special role,” he said.

The story of Christmas trees and Penrose State Forest dates back to a Christmas miracle, of sorts, that saw the plantation destroyed by fire.

First established in 1920, it was one of the earliest in the state, predated by Belanglo State Forest in 1919.

Today there are about 3500 hectares of commercial pine plantations in the Southern Highlands, with timber being processed at a local mill.

When fire swept through the plantation and Penrose village in 1939, nine houses, two stores, a fruitpacking shed and a church were destroyed in the town in addition to at least eight surrounding farmhouses.

After this calamity, the idea of growing pine was initially discarded by the then Forestry Commission.

The Penrose Forest radiata pine provided the perfect backdrop for the delivery of Governor Margaret Beazley’s recent Christmas message. Photo: NSW Government House.

“However, following a significant rainfall post-fire, the pine regeneration was so significant they decided to retain the plantation, initially to sell as Christmas trees!” Mr Bagnell said.

“By the early 1950s, the sale of Christmas trees to the Sydney market was a viable enterprise with some 90,000 trees being supplied by the Forestry Commission in one year alone.”

Forestry Corporation has grown pine on the site ever since, with extensions to the plantation area through the 1960s and ’70s.

Radiata pine (Pinus radiata) was originally named Pinus insignis or ”remarkable pine”, an apt name for a tree, which has a host of practical uses.

This species has been grown in the local Moss Vale area for more than a century.

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“Radiata pine is used in construction, landscaping and pulp and paper products, with NSW state forest pine plantations producing enough timber to construct a quarter of the houses built in Australia each year,” Mr Bagnell said.

Forestry Corporation operations, in both plantations and native forests, are certified sustainable to international standards, which guarantees that timber has been grown and harvested from a sustainable forest.

“This tree is one of the countless that cover the two million hectares of NSW state forests,” Mr Bagnell said.

“Around half of our estate is managed solely for community enjoyment and environmental outcomes, and a small percentage of the remaining forests are harvested each year to help build our homes and supply timber products.”

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