Overview of the Callitris Genus of Australian Conifers

The genus Callitris is better known as the Australian Cypress Pine. The genus contains some 19 species, all of which are small to medium-sized trees. It is a conifer genus specific to the southern hemisphere. Two species are found in New Caledonia and the remainder in Australia. Callitris belongs to the cypress (Cupressaccae) family. The twigs are thread-like and covered in tiny scale-like leaves which are arranged in whorls of three. The seed cones are globular with outer surfaces either smooth or dotted with warty resin blisters. The trees are valued for their timber and resin.

Callitris baileyi has the common name of Bailey’s Cypress Pine. It grows to 18 metres and is endemic to south-eastern Queensland and the neighbouring area of New South Wales. It is normally shorter in stature under cultivation and forms a dense column. The foliage is a dark green. The persistent cones are only 12mm in diameter.

Callitris canescens is only found in two distinct areas. One is in the southern inland area of Western Australia and the other in the arid coastal areas of South Australia. It is a small columnar tree with grey-green foliage.

Another species native to coastal areas of south-eastern Queensland and north-east New South Wales is Callitris columellaris, also known as C.arenosa. It has the common names of Bribie Island pine and sand cypress pine. It has a conical form when young, with the branches spreading with age. The bark is deeply furrowed and a dark grey. Remarkably similar botanically to this species is C.columellaris var. intratropica or northern cypress pine. It grows to 24 metres and is a slender, straight tree occurring across the far north of Australia. It has a pointed crown and sparse, dark green leaves.

A small tree reaching 6 metres maximum is Callitris Muelleri. It is also known as Mueller’s cypress pine. It appears to grow only on the sandstone plateaux near Sydney, New South Wales. It has a bushy, columnar form. Growth is stunted in shallow soils.

The white cypress pine (Callitris glaucophylla) is found across southern Australia. It has spreading, crooked branches and fine leaves which are a pale green to bluish grey in colour. Silvery grey globular cones are borne at the tips of the branches and shed their seed each year.

Callitris rhomboidea is also known as the Oyster Bay pine or Port Jackson pine. It is grown mainly for its neat shape. It has fine, olive green or glaucous foliage which may turn brownish in cold winters. The branchlets are pendulous. It is a hardy species, tolerant of poor soils and extended periods of dryness. It is a good choice for a seaside location.

Callitris specimens like plenty of light. Their native environment is generally in sandy or stony soils so they thrive in deep, well-drained soils. Most adapt to warm temperate climates but species from semi-arid regions prefer a warm, dry summer. When grown in groups they form an attractive landscaping feature. They can also be closely spaced and trimmed as hedges.