In 1787 it is recorded that a cone of a tree to be later called Pinus radiata was sent from Monterey by a gardener named Colladen of the "La Payrouse" to the Museum of Natural History in Paris and 12 seedlings were raised, but unfortunately none survived, and the tree was not formally described. Thomas Coulter at Monterey, California first noted Pinus radiata, in 1830. It appears that radiata first came into successful cultivation when, in 1833, seeds and specimens, collected by the Scottish explorer David Douglas, a gardener employed by the Royal Horticultural Society of London, were sent to England. They were grown in the society's garden at Chiswick, and some where distributed elsewhere for trial purposes.

Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) is the most widely planted pine in the world. Rapid growth and desirable lumber and pulp qualities cause it to be the leading introduced species in Australia, New Zealand, and Spain and a major species in plantations of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Kenya, and the Republic of South Africa. In these countries, Monterey pine is a mainstay of the forest economy, serving internal markets, generating valuable foreign exchange reserves as an export, and reducing cutting pressure on native forests.

Pinus radiata D. Don shows great variability between individual trees. This genetic variation as scientists have shown, gives the species the potential for genetic improvement through selective breeding'. This has been achieved in New Zealand, where naturalized stocks have formed the base of an elaborate and scientifically based selection programme. While intensive breeding began around 1950, the story of genetic improvement in New Zealand begins with the introduction of the species.

Pinus radiata, some of the earliest of the species in New Zealand
Located on Druid Hill slope

New Zealand's prosperity has depended for many years on the export of timber. The New Zealand industry was from the start firmly based on the kauri tree, although other natives where also important. Captain James Cook, on his first visit (1768-1771) to this country, wrote a glowing report about "the great length of the trees, growing straight as an arrow and tapered very little in proportion to their length." With the loss of the American colonies, Britain had lost its main source of timber, especially that suitable for masts and spars, and Cook's reports provided a solution, especially when he reported that NZ was covered by timber "of a size and every quality that indicates long duration; it grows close to the waters edge and may be easily obtained." Cook felled and pit sawed into planks the first tree on his second voyage (1772 - 1775). The earliest significant European extraction, however, occurred when Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne's men set up camps ashore, one for the sick, one on the mainland as a store and centre of communication, and a third inland for cutting masts and spars in the Bay of Islands in 1772. A large log was also extracted from the bush to provide material for the repair of the ship. The first export shipment of timber was dispatched from the country in October 1794, but domestic demand took the earlier production.

Bullock team extracing timber from the bush

To facilitate timber extraction, bullocks where first brought in to the country on the ex convict ship Dromedary in 1820, (12 bullocks and two timber carriages). Over the next 40 years with improved extraction methods the indigenous stands of timber disappeared altogether from many areas, and became seriously depleted in others. Scholefield noted that in 1871 over three million board feet (1 board foot = approximately 30cm wde, 2.5cm thick and 30cm long) of timber were exported, but by 1891 this had increased to fourty two million board feet. At that time there were reported to be some 250 sawmills processing native trees throughout the colony..

In 1870 James Hector made the following statement in reply to a question from the Government “..... the rapid destruction of the native forests I consider to be most wasteful, and is having the effect of rapidly reducing the natural resources of the country." His concern on this issue had been one of the reasons for the earlier establishment of this Garden and the need to find suitable trees to replace the increasingly depleted native stock, especially with the increasing population giving rise to expanding demand for timber and firewood, which could no longer be met from the indigenous stock. With wood being the most significant energy source at this time, the lack of firweood was a major concern around the significant residential areas.

Parts of the tussock covered land, especially the Canterbury Plains, lacking trees, where found by the earliest settlers to require trees for firewood (at the time the major energy source) and to provide shelter from prevailing winds for both livestock and homesteads. The first significant tree plantings are believed to have been by anonymous settlers and transients, especially gold miners returning from the Californian gold fields, who brought with them seeds of trees they found growing in California, especially Pinus radiata and Cypresses macrocarpa although this is not documented.  Miners returning to the West Coast are also thought to have imported Pinus radiata to provide timber for pit props.

Pinus radiata shelter belts in Canterbury still used;  both trimmed and tall trees

J.B.A. Acland on Mt. Peel Station in the Canterbury foothills is credited with the first documented importation of Pinus radiata. First discovered by European explorers/plant collectors in 1830, it was established in Britain by the end of that decade. The Acland family at their Devon estate had grown some of the earliest
radiata trial plantings imported into the UK for the RHS, and therefore had early knowledge of this tree. Acland's 1859 importation of one three year old radiata from N.S.W. nurseryman Thos Shepherd, a tree still alive in 1990, stands as the first record for radiata in N.Z.

An historic image of the first documented pine planting recorded in NZ  at Mt Peel Station
Loaded from  Photo: Jock Phillips
Date unknown
It is not known if the tree still stands
It was germinated from a seed in Sydney in 1856 and was planted at Mt Peel in 1859.

The Christchurch Botanic Garden Acland Pinus radiata planted 1863
Removed after storm damage 2009
Photo: Christchurch Botanic Garden

 Equally important is Acland's 1859 introduction of seed obtained from the Veitch UK nursery, probably collected by Lobb in Monterey, California. Returning from his home in Devon that year Acland would well have been enthusiastic about the success of Lobb's seed there. Known specimens from this importation were planted in Geraldine (2) and at the Christchurch Botanic Garden. It raises an interesting question as to whether his enthusiasm for this tree may be central to early Canterbury radiata introduction, as it is understood he distributed seed/plants to friends, neighbours and elsewhere.

The first milling of radiata was reported by a Canterbury man in New Zealand in 1893 at the Leslie Hills Station, near Culverden, North Canterbury. Duncan Rutherford milled some 20-year-old pines and used their timber for farm buildings,indicating likely confirmation of the early planting of radiata in that area.

Old  Pinus radiata in the Pinetum

Interestingly, Shepherd notes the Sydney Botanic Garden, Australia, records importaton of one 'insignis' plant from Kew and 1 plant from the Veitch nursery in 1854, 2 plants from Honolulu in 1860 and seed from the Veitch nursery in 1862. However, in 1851 a Mr de Murrant of California sent seeds of pines to that garden, and although the varieties where unspecified and undocumented, could have well included radiata.

By 1865 Shepherd states both Alfred Ludlam and Thomas Mason had established Pinus radiata in Wellington and it is likely that they could have made plantings of this tree in the Garden from about this time, although no documentary proof of this has been discovered. There are a number of recorded introductions throughout the country in the early 1860's. Ludlam in particular appears to have had a significant collection of pine species, although Mason also had a number. Ludlam is recorded as receiving radiata material in 1863, Mason in 1865, and Hector in 1868/69. It is understood that following the appointment of James Hector as Scientific Advisor to the Central Government in 1865 work was being done in the Garden by these individuals and John Buchanan before its formal establishment in 1868. Hector is likely to have seen the tree growing in various parts of the country, and realising how successful radiata appeared to be establishing in the country, subsequently lead to the importation of large quantities of Pinus radiata seed and plants to the Garden at the end of the decade and 1870's. Plants and seed where subsequently distributed throughout the country, to individuals, public gardens and acclimatisation societies, eventually providing the 'parents' of New Zealand's radiata forest industry, confirmed by recent DNA analysis of specimens still in the Garden.

This is thought to be a 'companion tree' to that imported by Acland in 1859, believed to have been planted in 1860.
The Christchurch Botanic Garden tree (shown towards top of page) may have also come from an early Acland importation, probably seed from the Veitch nursery also imported in 1859.
Both trees are probably the oldest pines in this country with a reasonably understood history. The Christchurch tree has been lost.

David Hay (1815–1883 Nurseryman) in Auckland is credited with the first commercial introduction to New Zealand of Pinus radiata. . In his 1860 catalogue only European conifers are mentioned, but from 1862 this began to change. It is likely that, initially, Hay's radiata pine and other American conifer plants were imported from Shepherd and Company of Sydney, thought to have been the first Australian nursery to stock Pinus radiata. There is no evidence of a direct American link at this stage, but a price drop in the seeds advertised in Hay's 1872 catalogue suggests that he was importing direct from America by this time, as were nurseries in other centres – William Martin and George Matthews in Dunedin, William Wilson and others in Christchurch, William Hale in Nelson, Robert Pharazyn in Wanganui and the Mason brothers in Auckland.

Pinus radiata provided many advantages – it grows straight, grows rapidly, is easy to handle, grows well in plantations, is adaptable to most NZ conditions, and provides wood that is remarkably versitile. Its seeds can be collected throughout the year, it transplants easily and requires little care thereafter, responding well to pruning and thinning and can readily be treated with preservatives. Its ability to produce a high quality long fibred pulp adds to its value. Genetically variable it responds well to selective breeding improvement.

Which in a nutshell is the success story of Pinus radiata. This garden played a central role, meeting its founding objective as a 'colonial garden' to facilitate the establishment of the forestry industry.  Pioneers like Hector, Ludlam and Mason amongst others deserve full recognition for the crucial role they played in the introduction of this tree in particular,  a tree on which the countries prosperity still depends on to such a significant degree It is an important timber tree in several parts of the world, and the number one timber tree in NZ.

Often seen in this area under the pines in autumn is the red toadstool Amanita muscaria a poisonous mycorhizal parasite growing on pine roots. This has worldwide distribution, and is the toadstool of fairy tale fame in European literature. It is small but a giant to 'the little people'.

James Hector Pinetum


Shepherd, Winsome; Early Importations of Pinus Radiata to New Zealand and Distribution in Canterbury to 1885:Implications for the Genetic Makeup of Pinus Radiata Stocks.

Winsome Shepherd and Walter Cook; The Botanic Garden, Wellington A New Zealand History 1840 - 1987 Publisher Milwood Press, Wellington NZ 291B Tinakori Rd Thorndon Wellington Published 1988 ISBN 0-908582-79-X

Druett, Joan Exotic Intruders Especially Chapter Three — The agricultural invasion

See also page on Mason and Ludlam

Early Forestry,d.dGI

Exotic trees in South Canterbury, N.Z. have been planted were experts said they can't grow.

Story: Radiata pine  Page 2 – Plantations in New Zealand

A burning question: what is pastoralism?

NZ Tree Register  Grey Pine

The California trees that came to NZ

Forestry in New Zealand   Logging Native Forests

Forestry in New Zealand

Kauri logging

ex convict ship Dromedary and bullocks for Kauri extraction

Journal of a Ten Months' Residence in New Zealand   The Trip of the Dromedary

The first British arrivals, 1769-1839,d.dGI

Captain Cook: His Life, Voyages and Discoveries  By William H G Kingston,d.aGc    or,d.aGc

Story: Marion du Fresne, Marc Joseph

The patient bullock




TREATY RESEARCH SERIES  TREATY OF WAITANGI RESEARCH UNIT  Geoff Park (2006)  Forestry and Timber Trading in the Bay of Islands, 1769-1840,d.aGc