Callitris columellaris / Murray River pine

Callitris columellaris, as described in 1866 by Ferdinand Jacob Heinrich von Mueller, in Fragmenta Phytographiæ Australiæ, 5th edition, is commonly known as coast cypress pine, Bribie Island pine, Murray River pine, Murray pine, northern cypress pine, western sand cypress, western cypress, white cypress pine, white pine, coastal cypress, sand cypress, slender native cypress pine, western cypress pine. Aboriginal names include lagumin and karntirrikani.

The epithet columellaris refers to the columella, which is the small pillar of woody tissue at the heart of a Callitris seed cone.

Description. Murray River is an evergreen coniferous species of tree that grows to mature heights of 100 feet (30 m) tall, with a single trunk of spreading or erect branches.

  • Bark is brown, rough and furrowed.
  • Foliage grows in whorls of 3 (sometimes 4 or 5 when juvenile), colored variably dark green to glaucous. Juvenile leaves measure 0.28 to 0.32 inch (7 - 8 mm) long. Mature leaves measure 0.04 to 0.12 inch (1 - 3 mm) long with broadly acute apices, and unkeeled dorsal surfaces.
  • Pollen cones appear solitary or in small clusters at the tips of branchlets. They have a cylindric-oblong shape and measure 0.12 to 0.4 inch (3 - 10 mm) long and 0.08 to 0.2 inch (2 - 5 mm) wide.
  • Seed cones also appear solitary on slender twigs, falling soon after maturity. They are depressed-globose to ovoid in shape and measure 0.5 to 1 inch (12 - 25 mm) in diameter, colored dark brown with a 0.28 to 0.32 inch (7 - 8 mm) peduncle,
  • Cone scales number 6, and are thin, often with a very small dorsal point, separating almost to base and spreading widely after opening, alternate scales short and narrow, larger ones angled into a wide sharp apex, spreading widely at maturity;
  • Seeds measure 0.16 to 0.2 inch (4 - 5 mm) and are chestnut-brown in color. They are numerous, with 2 to 3 wings measuring circa 0.16 inch (4 mm) wide.
Distribution. This species is native to Australia — all states except Tasmania; this is the most widely distributed species of Callitris. Primarily grows on sandy soils, in distributions ranging from isolated individuals to extensive forests.

Hardy to USDA Zone 9 (cold hardy to 20 to 30°F / -1.1 to -6.7°C), and well suited for semi-arid steppe and Mediterranean climates.

Attribution from: Gwen J. Harden (editor); Flora of New South Wales; ©1990 New South Wales University Presss. Kensington, NSW, Australia.

Callitris columellaris — a specimen growing at Mounts Botanical Garden, West Palm Beach, Florida.
Photo by Katherine Wagner-Reiss
Callitris columellaris — a closeup of foliage detail.
Photo by Katherine Wagner-Reiss