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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 1, Issue 3, November 1958

Some Historic Trees in Nelson

page 8

Some Historic Trees in Nelson

In defining "Historic Trees" we must remember that our first Centennial was as late as 1942, that we have no ancient trees associated with 17th or 18th Century history or legend. We must perforce content ourselves by examining trees planted between the Settlement, February, 1842, and 1880; trees already venerated by the time factor or through some association with a prominent settler.

At this stage I should say that I feel we must include a younger tree, that towering Wellingtonia planted by William Songer, as late as 1900, to mark the spot to which the settlers first climbed on the Port Hills to view their new homeland, that spot where was mounted the cannon which fired its weekly blast precisely at noon every Saturday, that the new-comers might regulate their clocks.

The first settlers brought their own acorns and cones, and also various deciduous types, potted, from the Old Country. But the now marked presence of fine specimens indigenous to North America, Asia, Africa and Australia we owe to our first nurserymen. Particularly do we owe gratitude to the Hale Bros., who had learned their business near London. William Hale, arriving In November 1848, set up a 23-acre nursery in the Lower Maitai Valley, where he produced vegetables, fruit, shrubs and trees; of the latter he sent many specimens widely throughout New Zealand.

John Hale, arriving in January 1859, named his Waimea Road nursery "Lark Hall", commemorating the estate where he had served his apprenticeship. John, ranging beyond the usual European trees, introduced seeds and plants of Californian Redwoods, Chilean Arancarias, Lebanon and Himalayan cedars, Norfolk Island pines etc. Fortunately for his enterprise the Nelson climate, with its 2,500 hours of sunshine and nearly 40 inches rainfall, and the physical conditions gave rapid growth coupled with remarkably symmetrical conformation.

It is, therefore, little wonder that visitors remark on the splendid size attained by our 90-year-old Redwoods, both the Sequoia Gigantea and the Sempervirens.

At this stage Mr Street gave a very full and interesting account of the two types of Redwoods, their history, habitat, optimal conditions, longevity and natural enemies. He gave the physical measurements of the "Santa Clara" Sempervirens, and of the Gigantea "General Sherman", and spoke of the recently discovered deciduous Sequoias of China, believed to be extinct until 1946. Speaking of the recent presentation of a specimen of this ancient Redwood to the Queens Gardens by Mr Dick Wastney, Mr Sweet expressed the fervent hope that all Nelsonians would always cherish our "baby" specimens of this wonderful species, already the most conspicuous and stately of our exotics, whether they came from America or, more recently, from China. Naturally many of the first Redwoods were planted out in once large sections, typical of Nelson's original Town-Acre allotments; and the first owners, having no experience to guide them, paid often little attention to their arrangement, allowing them to intermingle with many other exotics.

For the sake of the record and for the information of Nelsonians Mr Sweet then proceeded to give some details of the most conspicuous Redwoods planted in the generation after the settlement—chiefly from 1865 to 1880.

Bishopdale: 2 Sequoia Gigantea, 2 Seq. Sempervirens; planted in Bishop Suter's time. C. 1867. Height, 125 feet.

Grove Street, Mr T. Hunt: 2 Seq. Gig. Undoubtedly the finest and largest in our district, the larger being already 6ft. in diameter at 6ft. from the ground. Indications are page 9that Mr Myers planted them, 1865, as part of a close grove including Monkey Puzzles, Norfolk Pines etc.

Waimea Road, J. Hale Estate: 1 Seq. Semp. This 1865 planting in J. Hale's old nursery was allowed to fork—on account of a nearby residence; it thus has, for its age, a particularly massive appearance, being 7ft. in diameter at breast height.

Wakapuaka, "Hillwood", Mr H. O'Beirne: 3 Seq. Semp. The Forest Service gives their age at 90 years. Growing on the hill slope, they have attained notable height, already up to 160ft.

Milton Street, Mr H. C. K. Harley: 1 Seq. Gig. 85 years old, this tree looks particularly healthy; it has outstanding symmetry, with a very fine taper reaching to 130ft.

Brougham Street, "Melrose": 1 Seq. Semp. This tree, of the 1870's, nearly 6ft. diameter and 125ft. high, is forked, exhibits all the characteristics of its type. It was planted by that keen lover of trees, the late Mr P. B. Adams, who was also responsible for the magnificent modern appearance of this property, including the section of native bush bordered by Brougham St. and Trafalgar St. South.

Cawthron Institute: 1 Seq. Gig. Planted we think by the late Mr John Sharp about 1875 this 110ft. tree showed signs, about 25 years ago, of dying back at the top. Though it has subsequently developed a new growing top, it fails to display the wonted symmetry.

Cathedral Hill: 3 Seq. Semp. The Eastern one, well over 100ft., is unusual in its drooping branches and very tapering trunk.

Hardy St., Government Buildings: 4 Seq. Gig. 120ft.; c. 1870.

Waimea Road, Mental Hospital: 5 Seq. Semp. c. 1870.

Wakapuaka, late Mr C. Ruffell: 4 Seq. Semp. 115ft.; c. 1870.

Stoke, Marsden Estate, now an extension of Green Meadows Park: 3 Seq. Gig., 3 Seq. Semp. 125ft.; c. 1875.

Endeavour St., "Ronaki": 1 Seq. Gig. 90ft.; c. 1875.

Old Cemetery: 3 Seq. Semp. 135ft., c. 5ft. diameter; c. 1880. This trio are perfect specimens of their type.