This self-guided 30-minute walk provides a brief insight into the significant trees on the site. The walk is on formed paths generally suitable for people of all abilities. More information is provided below the map.
If you would prefer, you can also attend a free guided tour with the Friends of Sale Botanic Gardens on the second Thursday of each month, 10am - 11am. Tours commence from the main entrance on Guthridge Parade and bookings are not required. Private tours are available by appointment, please call 5142 3237.
To complete a self guided tree walk, please follow the map provided around the Sale Botanic Gardens and use the lists below to read more about each species.
Gazetted in 1860, Sale Botanic Gardens is one of the oldest in Victoria and the only 19th century botanic gardens east of Melbourne. The original site covered 13 hectares but currently covers 5 hectares. Many of the trees in this garden are more than 150 years old. Such landscapes reflect the passing of time and often the scars of history.
Sale’s average rainfall of 600mm limits the range of species that can be grown on this site, however the soils on the site are deep and well suited to growing a wide range of species. In 2006 Council installed an irrigation system using recycled water from the adjacent Lake Guthridge which has also improved growing conditions.
The Gunaikurnai people inhabited the area for many thousands of years. Several trees today still bear the scars of bark removed to make canoes. A remnant scar tree is 100 metres along the path in Brayakoloong Place at the swimming pool end.
The oldest trees in the Gardens predate European settlement. The Gippsland Red Gums (Eucalyptus tereticornis subspecies mediana) found throughout the lower sections of the Gardens are estimated to be more than 300 years old.
The first major planting was in 1867, supplied by the Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens on behalf of then-director Baron Ferdinand von Mueller. Trees from this period found in the gardens are the Norfolk Island Pines (Araucaria heterophylla), Hoop Pine (Araucaria cunninghamii) and many cypress species. In 1872 the community planted more than 500 trees and shrubs in celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday. A further 400 trees were purchased and laid out according to the recommendations of another Melbourne Botanic Gardens director, William Guilfoyle, following his visit to the site in 1881.
The Botanic Gardens’ continued existence was due to the vision and dedication of early Sale pioneers such as Councillors Topping, English and Guthridge.
From 1917 the gardens went into a long period of decline when the then Council chose to focus on Victoria Park and numerous trees were removed.
In 1995 as part of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens’ 150th anniversary, Sale was gifted a range of trees. Many of these will still be standing in another 150 years. Since 2000 there has been a revitalisation of the gardens including the replanting of many trees.
Read more about the Sale Botanic Gardens and Lake Guthridge Parklands here.
Araucaria heterophylla, planted 1867
The Araucarias are an ancient group of evergreen trees found in South America, Australia and some pacific islands, and named after the Arauco Indians of central Chile. The Norfolk Island Pine is the most grown of the Araucaria family, widely used in the Mediterranean, South Africa and New Zealand.
This is an iconic tree in much of Australia, initially planted as shipping landmarks and widely planted in public parks during the 19th century. The trees in this garden tend to struggle due to winter frost and average rainfall which is half that of their native environment.
Araucaria bidwilli, planted 1867
The Bunya Pine is native to Queensland and grows to 45m tall in the wild, but much less in cultivation. It is an iconic species from Victorian times and one of the most striking trees in the gardens. These trees produce edible seeds in large cones, weighing up to 20kg.
This tree is 22m tall and has a classic dome shaped canopy with spoke-like branches. The twin trunks or codominate stems can be a structural issue and is common in the species, but are not known to cause any problems. Nevertheless, this tree has been fitted with two steel cables for extra support.
Pencil cedar-Juniperus virginiana, planted 1867
The Eastern Red Cedar is listed on the National Trust Significant Tree Register due to its size and rarity in Australia. Native to eastern North America, it is not a true cedar, but a juniper, a slow growing tree that rarely exceeds 20m in height. It is long lived, with some trees exceeding 700 years.
It has a waxy berry-like fruit which is actually a cone. The wood is light and durable and is used to line cupboards because the aromatic wood repels moths. It has been used to create bows and is one of a few species used for making pencils. The lean on this tree is of concern and is being monitored.
Cedrus deodara, planted 1867
The Deodar Cedar is found throughout the western Himalayas, above 1700m. Deodar means wood of the gods and in some areas they are worshipped as a divine tree. They are now almost extinct over much of their original range due to timber harvesting.
Although common in parks throughout the world, growing up to 40m tall is too large for most gardens. Its timber is highly valued due to its durability and resistance to rot, often used to make temples. The inner wood is aromatic and used to make incense. The curative properties of Deodar are well recorded in Indian medicines. This tree suffers because it is a favourite roosting site for the gardens’ visiting peacocks.
Araucaria cunninghamii, planted 1867
The Hoop Pine grows up to 60m tall and is a native of tropical and subtropical rainforests in Queensland, NSW & New Guinea. In historic times, it was an important source of timber for masts and spars of sailing ships.
The Australian plywood industry was largely founded on Hoop Pine and resin was used by Aboriginal people as glue or cement. This tree is an unusual shape for the species, being broad rather than tall.
This is a special place in the gardens and a unique feature that is a joy to visit at any time of the year. It’s very much a mystical site, full of fairies! The Elm Forest is mostly composed of English Elms (Ulmus procera) produced from suckering from roots of the original tree.
Dutch elm disease killed most of these trees in the northern hemisphere and the most significant population of elms in the world can now be found in cooler parts of Australia.
There are three other species of elms in the gardens, Silky Oak (Grevillea robusta) near the path edge, which has grown larger in this protected micro climate and an ancient looking Gledistia (Gledistia tricanthos) from North America near the Woody Meadows. It has impressive thorns not seen on modern cultivars. If you look in the hollow trunk you can see roots growing in the decaying material – the tree is recycling nutrients!
The Jolly Swagman sculpture (made by well known chainsaw sculptor John Brady) was carved from the trunk of what was a large English Oak (Quercus robur).
The Bhutan Cypress is native to parts of China and Vietnam and endangered in the wild. It grows to 30m tall and the foliage is said to smell like mown grass when crushed.
An interesting aspect of this tree is the lightning scar running down one side of the trunk. Lightning tends to run down the bark of wet trees, impact to a dry tree usually results in significant damage. The exposed wood clearly shows that the branches and the trunk grow separately, with the trunk enveloping the branch each year and forming the knots seen in the timber. This tree is one of many cypress planted in the gardens, most dating from between 1867-72.
Olea europaea subsp Africana, planted 1881
The African Olive is a small evergreen tree, growing to 12m tall. This is not the common fruiting olive as the fruit is much smaller and leaves longer. It is native from Africa to China, with the potential to become weedy in some environments.
Olive trees have been in cultivation for more than 5,000 years and can live for over 2,000 years! This tree has a form that hints at an ancient tree, but was probably planted in 1881 at Guilfoyle’s suggestion. A tea can be made from the leaves and ink from the fruit, while the timber is hard and beautifully grained.
Corymbia citriodora, planted 1881
The Lemon Scented Gum is native to Queensland and grows up to 50m tall. This is one of the most popular trees in the gardens! The trunk changes colours as the sun sets over the lake, and you can smell the strong lemon scented leaves. It is also a favourite tree for local cockatoos and corellas.
This tree is believed to be part of the 1872 planting and is 25m high and 20m wide. Previously named Eucalyptus citriodora, the genus was changed to Corymbia after a botanical revision in 1995. Corymbia refers to the bud and the flower arrangement.
A similar tree can be found at the rear of Aqua Energy, which was the site of the curator’s house. Mulch is used under many trees to improve the soil, reduce competition from grass and to keep mowers away from the trunk.
Eucalyptus tereticornus ssp Mediana
The oldest of the Gippsland Redgums predate European settlement. It is only found in this area of Gippsland and intergrades with the River Red Gums (E. camludulensis). The trees located along the lake walk are estimated to be more than 300 years old.
Many are hollow and provide breeding sites for local bird species with dead trees left for habitat. The two nearby Aboriginal scar trees are of this same species.
The Norfolk Island Hibiscus is native to Norfolk and Lord Howe Island, and possibly parts of Queensland and NSW. It is an extremely hardy tree and widely planted overseas. It has small hibiscus-like flowers and grows to 15m tall.
The fibreglass-like hairs found within the seed capsules are an irritant. These ‘monotypic’ trees (the only species in its group) stand like sentries along the path and are associated with the Guilfoyle 1881 plantings.
The New Zealand Kauri Pine is part of the ancient Gondwanaland plants and the name Agathis reflects the cones’ resemblance to a ball of thread. It grows to 50m tall and is native to New Zealand, where its timber has been over exploited.
This tree is believed to have been planted around 1867 and supplied by the Melbourne Botanic Gardens. The crown damage that you can see is caused by cockatoos. The more common Queensland Kauri, Agathis robusta is identifiable by its larger leaves and cones. A young Queensland Kauri is planted nearby.
Cupressus sempervirens ‘Stricta’, planted 1867
The Pencil Pine is a very upright cultivar of the Italian Cypress and is native to the eastern Mediterranean. Some trees are more than 1,000 years old with durable timber, used to build the doors of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
This tree was planted around 150 years ago, and new plantings of the same species create a living extension to the playground. In some Mediterranean areas it has been associated with death and was sacred to the rulers of the underworld, often planted by a grave.