Forests survive in many types of environments all over the world, so it is no surprise that these same trees can thrive at the National Arboretum, Canberra, Australia. Someone recommended the National Arboretum as one of the more interesting places to see while I am here; so I thought I would take a look, as I love trees and was really curious. The National Arboretum was not what I expected.

2New_Aboretum11_DSC_4215_1269 copy
National Aboretum. Photo © Gabrielle Ahern

It was opened in February 2013, following much discussion about how the site would be managed. A devastating bushfire all but destroyed the area in 2001 and 2003. The Arboretum is the realisation of a design originally created by Walter and Marion Griffin in the early 1900’s. Many voices were productive in the development of this area, with the result being an incredible conglomeration of forests from various global locations.

1New_aboretum9_DSC_4161_1267 copy
National Aboretum. Photo © Gabrielle Ahern

I was fortunate to arrive when a walking tour was leaving. The Guide was like a Pandora box of information. There are apparently 94 forests of rare, endangered and symbolic trees. The trees are in ‘forest’ terms only new and the Guide described how this place would look in one hundred to two hundred years. I can only but imagine the difference time will make to this site.

Naturally, it was one of the coldest days to visit with winter temperatures close to zero as we visited ‘warm trees’ wrapped with knitted scarves. The scarves were knitted by many people interested in attracting visitors to explore the Arboretum during the time of the year when trees are naked of leaves. The trees trunks are clothed in colorful displays and provide a stunning contrast to the bleak winter landscape.

1New_Aboretum1_DSC_4132_1259 copy
National Aboretum. Photo © Gabrielle Ahern

Trees, of course, grow into all sorts of shapes and sizes and smaller statured trees should not be ignored. The National Bonsai and Penjing Collection of Australia houses nearly 80 native and exotic trees all year round. It was an incredible walk through a forest of trees that are normally colossal but in miniature. Ironically, it houses the oldest tree at the Arboretum, which is over 130 years old. If you are interested in learning the art of bonsai, there are workshops and training courses available. The Arboretum is the place for studies into forest ecology, with the Australian National University managing research about the impact of climate change and trees reaction to changes in temperature and rainfall.

1New_Aboretum2_DSC_4136_1260 copy
National Aboretum. Photo © Gabrielle Ahern

The many trails are a fantastic diversion for walkers or cyclists to travel through the forests. The Village Centre caters for visitors with a café and restaurant, and if you would like a souvenir, a gift shop entertains many interests, like ‘would be trees’ in the form of seeds.

A feature of the National Arboretum and a way to appreciate its growing forests and the Australian Alps is the view from Dairy Farmers Hill. You’ll notice a small forest of Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis). These trees were cultivated from seedlings of the commemorative Lone Pine planted at the Australian War Memorial in 1934 (a gift from the Turkish Embassy). Something hard to miss is the incredible iron sculpture of an eagle on its nest.

1New_aboretum4_DSC_4146_1262 copy
National Aboretum. Photo © Gabrielle Ahern

I recommend the National Arboretum to anyone who loves trees and supports their conservation worldwide. Whatever your personal interests you walk away with a great sense of the forest.

 Written by Gabrielle Ahern

Salty Wave Blue – Into all things ecology.

Follow @SaltyWaveBlue on @Instagram and @Twitter

If you would like to see images of forests from all over the world, please take a look at my Pinterest site:


Arboretum – The magazine for the National Arboretum Canberra Issue 2, Spring 2013

Website – National Arboretum

Did you know? The leaves of the Monkey Puzzle tree (Araucaria auracana) may remain on the tree for thirty years.