Gymnosperms are non flowering, seed bearing plants that botanists and scientists believe are an ancient ‘evolutionary branch’ of modern day flowering plants that evolved during a cooler and wetter era of Earth’s history. The Gymnosperm Forest displays the fascinating evolution of plants from prehistoric times through the breakup of the Gondwana ‘supercontinent’ into the modern day world. This garden places the spotlight on the future of this species via the impacts of man and potential climate change in a potentially warmer and dryer world.
The most magnificent Gymnosperms from around the globe that can be grown in Mackay are displayed here – including true Pines, Araucarias, Cycads and Zamia Palms. Feature trees include:
- The Wollemi Pine - Wollemia noblis – a tree thought extinct in prehistoric time until rediscovered in the 1990’s in an isolated national park gorge 200kms west of Sydney. With less than 100 adult trees known to exist in the wild, the Wollemi Pine is now the focus of extensive research to safeguard its survival.
- Bunya Pine – Araucaria bidwillii – a well known tree native to south-east Queensland with two small disjunct populations found in northern Queensland's World Heritage listed Wet Tropics. This forest giant produces a rich crop of nuts every 2-7 years that offered both sustenance and cultural significance to the indigenous peoples of southern and central Queensland and work and income to the early settlers and timber getters of the South Burnett
- Hoop Pine – Araucaria cunninghamii subsp. cunninghammii – a tree typical of the east coast’s exposed rocky islands, ridges and mountaintops, is harvested for timber and prized by early sailors for ship masts
- Queensland Kauri – Agathis robusta – a giant of this genus that only naturally occurs around Fraser Island and Maryborough in south east Queensland and on the Atherton Tableland west of Cairns.
- Gingko – Gingko biloba – thought to be one of the oldest living trees on the planet with fossil records almost exactly matching the modern day features of this stunning tree from China
An understory of Cycads and Zamia Palms from Queensland and around the world feature Gymnosperms more suited to the average garden. A stand of exotic Caribbean Pitch Pine - Pinus caribaea are a reminder of the commercial forestry industry of Mackay’s northern areas and the world wide importance of Gymnosperms. As our climate continues to warm and dry out and the ocean levels potentially rise – what will happen to many Gymnosperms now at the limit of their natural habitat of cool, wet forests or low lying islands?