Araucaria heterophylla
Norfolk Island pine

Angela Lober, 2015. © The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust.

The fountain and pleasure garden at Vaucluse House

The gardens and grounds at Vaucluse House are part of a grand and romantic vision of landscape, preserved in Sydney’s best-surviving mid-1800s estate. Discover the splendid pleasure garden, Victorian kitchen garden and idyllic natural setting on the edge of Sydney Harbour.

Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums.

Vaucluse House
Conrad Martens, c1841, watercolour
Sydney Living Museums

A single Norfolk Island pine, planted to the west of Vaucluse House, is visible in this c1841 watercolour (background, far right). According to the American explorer Charles Wilkes, who visited Sydney in 1839, ‘The view of the town is diversified with the peculiar foliage of Australian trees, among which the pines of Norfolk Island and Moreton Bay [Araucaria cunninghamii, or hoop pine] are most conspicuous’.

‘Vaucluse, Port Jackson, the property and late residence of Sir (sic) William Wentworth’
Artist unknown, 1869, wood engraving
From The Illustrated Sydney News, 27 October 1869, Sydney Living Museums  

The gardenesque style, developed in England and embraced enthusiastically in the colony, emphasised exotic or striking ‘specimen’ trees, placed in a deliberately artful manner. From the 1850s a Norfolk Island pine, planted as a centrepiece in the lawn at Vaucluse House, was one of the pleasure garden’s major visual elements.

Park visitors under the old Norfolk Island pine at Vaucluse House
Photographer unknown, c1920
Sydney Living Museums

In 1935 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Norfolk Island pine adorning the central lawn at Vaucluse House, which had become a danger due to a lightning strike some years earlier, had been felled. The stately pine – ‘a sentinel of Watson’s Bay’ – was by then 75 feet (almost 23 metres) high. It was replaced by a young Norfolk Island pine.

Cook pine in the pleasure garden at Vaucluse House

A Cook pine (Araucaria columnaris), a native of New Caledonia, replaced the Norfolk Island pine in the 1980s. Like the latter, the Cook pine was encountered by Captain James Cook on his second voyage to the Pacific, in 1774. The stately conifers are noteworthy for having a slight, unaccountable lean to the north.

Photo © Katrina James for Sydney Living Museums.

Norfolk Island pine

Araucuria heterophylla