Cypress pine trees of the species Callitris intratropica are another native nod to the festive season. Historically, conifers were used during the winter festivities in the northern hemisphere by pagans and Christians alike. Pagans would decorate their homes with the evergreen branches as a reminder of the spring to come. Christian legend has it that in the 16th century, the Protestant reformer Martin Luther was on a winters walk, when he looked up and was amazed by the beauty of the stars twinkling amongst the evergreens. He decided to take one home and added candles to replicate the sight for his family.
The Cypress pine can grow up to 24m high and live for over 200 years. It is sparsely distributed throughout the Territory, but is perhaps more well-known from the Howard Springs pine plantations. The tree has many Aboriginal medicinal and structural uses including infusing the inner bark to create a drink to relieve stomach cramps, burning bark and leaves as a mosquito repellent, ashes to soothe body pain and wood for fighting sticks, paddles, spears, fire-torches and firewood (Brock & Dunlop 1993). The tree is more widely used these days for the production of timber and essential oil known as ‘Australian Blue Cypress’ which is used in perfumes, cosmetics and aromatherapy.
As beautiful as this tree is, just remember that this pine should be left out of a pot and is best left alone in the environment as a habitat for wildlife.
(Photo credit: Brett Murphy) Written by Emma Barrett, LFW volunteer
Reference: Brock, John & Dunlop, Adi 1993, Native plants of Northern Australia, Revised ed, Reed New Holland, 1993, Frenchs Forest, N.S.W