King Billy Pine Forest ~ a walk with giants

King Billy Pines (Athrotaxis selanginoides) also known as King William Pines are a species of tree endemic to Tasmania. They only grow in the mountains of northwest and southwest Tasmania.

Enchanting forest
Enchanting forest

The trees were named in honour of William Lanne (c.1835 – 3 March 1869) the Oyster Bay Aboriginal tribal leader and the last full blooded Aboriginal Tasmanian man, who was also named after the reigning King William of England. His nick name was ‘King Billy’.

King Billy Pines are evergreen trees found mostly in high altitudes such as the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park at elevations of 500 – 1200 metres or more.

King Billy Forest with fallen logs covered in moss and lichen
King Billy Forest with fallen logs covered in moss and lichen

Despite being called pines, these giant trees are actually conifer trees. They grow very tall, up to 40 metres high, with some trunks measuring over 1.5m in diameter.

Many of the old King Billy Pines have enormous trunks
Many of the old King Billy Pines have enormous trunks

Many of the trees in this forest are over 1000 years old. Some of the dead trees have been lying on the ground for over 1000 years and are still very solid, showing no signs of decay. These old-growth forest trees are beautifully covered with moss and lichen, and some are adorned with fungi.

Lichen and moss
Lichen and moss
Red fungi outgrowing from King Billy Pine tree
Red fungi outgrowing from King Billy Pine tree

King Billy pines were used by early settlers as a fuel source, for ship building, smelters and mines, and as a result many of these trees were lost. The wood is very soft and light pinkish-brown with a fine grain making the wood very suitable for string instruments such as banjos, violins, guitars and ukuleles, and for boat building. Being such a beautiful wood it was also extensively used for cabinetry, tables and chairs. Hence, the forests were very depleted of these trees.

These amazing trees are extremely slow growing which makes it very hard for forests to regenerate new trees. It takes around 40 years for seedlings to grow to 1 metre tall. King Billy Pine trees are now a protected species and all logging is forbidden both inside and outside protected areas.

Large base trunks
Large base trunks
King Billy forest walk

The King Billy walking track in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is a 2km long circuit walking track which takes around an hour to complete. Once in this enchanting forest walk it is very easy to spend two or more hours just meandering through enjoying the surrounds and listening to the sounds of the forest. It is very peaceful and tranquil whilst standing amidst these amazing giant trees.

The walk begins and ends behind the Cradle Mountain Lodge, and is open for everyone to take this walk, not just people staying at the lodge. The easy walk meanders along a manmade board walk that curves through he forest to keep people from damaging the forest floor of its flora.

I didn’t see any wildlife apart from a few leeches during my time in the forest, but there was a lot of fungi growing out of the trees and emerging thoughout the mossy ground.

Orange fungi growing out of the dead trunk
Orange fungi growing out of the dead trunk
Mauve fungi outgrowing through the moss from a King Billy pine tree
Mauve fungi outgrowing through the moss from a King Billy pine tree
Small light brown fungi growing out of the King Billy Pine trunk
Small light brown fungi growing out of the King Billy Pine trunk

Being a rainforest it did have a few light sprinkles during my walk, so its a good idea to bring a light rain jacket and a waterproof cover for your camera. There are a lot of leeches around so be careful and stay on the lookout! Wear covered shoes with long pants tucked into your socks!

Enchanting King Billy Pine Forest Walk
Enchanting King Billy Pine Forest Walk
Conservation

Due to the overuse of the wood and logging of these giant trees there has been loss of 40% over the past 200 years. Forest fires and climate change has, and continues to have, a negative effect on forests. However, bushfires remain the major potential hazard to forests. Now 84% of forests in Tasmania are protected areas. King Billy pines are listed as ‘Endangered’ on the Index of Threatened Australian Plant Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Reference Links

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-07/king-billy-pines-reveal-tasmanias-history/9022430

https://www.abc.net.au/local/audio/2011/02/15/3139548.htm

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