King Billy Pine – Athrotaxis selaginoides
Other Names: King William Pine, Tasmanian Pencil Cedar, Red Pine
Distinctive Characteristics: Not a true pine, this conifer is in the Cypress family. It is extremely slow-growing, taking about forty years for a seedling to grow to one meter tall in the wild. It grows with a single or multiple trunks; in subalpine areas it occurs dwarfed, twisted, and gnarly. The soft, spongy bark is slightly furrowed and exfoliates in long strips.
Distribution: Endemic to the western and southwestern plains and mountains of Tasmania, Australia. Elevation: 1300–3600 ft. (400–1,120 m).
Ecosystem: Occurs generally in dense, shady, cool and wet climates including heavy snowfalls, in temperate rainforest, subalpine scrub, coniferous heathland, riparian or valley bottoms, and less commonly on rocky slopes and exposed ridges. Associated with Myrtle Beech, a Top Pine, Southern Sassafras, Cider Gum, Tasmanian Snow Gum, Huon Pine, Pencil Pine, Leatherwood, Deciduous Beech, Cheshunt Pine and various species of Eucalypts, Atherosperma, and Melaleucas.
Maximum Age: Estimated to 1,200 years old.
Maximum Height and Girth: 131 ft. (40 m) in height; 22.6 ft. (6.9 m) in circumference.
Animal Community: Common wombats, Bennett's wallabies, black currawongs, and various song birds.
Modern Uses: King Billy Pine has been popular for use in joinery, furniture, pianos, violins, drawing boards, carriage works, wooden pipes, venetian blinds, cabinetry, boatbuilding, doors, windows, and roofing shingles. Scavenged wood is still prized for fine wood-turning, and for making water craft and stringed instruments.
Threats and Conservation: Because of its slow-growing nature, regeneration is extremely poor. The species has declined about 40% over the last 200 years due to logging and fire. Although 84% of its forests are now in protected areas, fires are still a potential hazard. They are also in danger from climate change. The status is listed as Vulnerable on the IUNC Redlist; it is on the Index of Threatened Australian Plant Species; and it is classified as Endangered under Australia's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.