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Are Norfolk Island pines protected in Australia? What to do when Norfolk pine gets too tall? Can I cut the top off my Norfolk pine?
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Are Norfolk Island pines protected in Australia? What to do when Norfolk pine gets too tall? Can I cut the top off my Norfolk pine?

Feb 16, 2023

The Norfolk Island pine tree is a distinctively beautiful plant endemic to Norfolk Island in Australia and in this article we’re going to explore them in greater depth. First of all, are Norfolk Island pines a protected species? If so, why are they protected and what is it that is threatening their survival?  We’ll also take a closer look at how best to care for your Norfolk pine, specifically, what to do when it gets too tall and whether or not you can safely top the tree to control its height. 

If this is of interest to you, read on and we’ll tell you everything you need to know about these fascinating trees…

Are Norfolk Island pines protected in Australia?

Norfolk Island Pines (Araucaria heterophylla) is an iconic species that are native to Norfolk Island, an external territory of Australia located in the South Pacific Ocean about 1,412 kilometres (877 miles) east of the Australian mainland. Though historically plentiful, Norfolk Island Pines have been threatened by human activity and are now legally protected in Norfolk Island, Australia. 

  • The Norfolk Island Pine is a species of coniferous tree in the family Araucariaceae. It is an evergreen tree that can reach heights of up to 60 metres (200 feet). The tree has a unique symmetrical shape, with its branches growing in a spiral pattern. Its needles are flat and its cones can reach up to 15 cm (6 inches) in length. 
  • These stunning trees were once commonly found throughout Australia, but they have now become rare due to human activity (surprise, surprise) such as logging, land clearing, and grazing. As a result, the species has been listed as endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. 
  • Under the act, it is illegal to harvest, trade, or attempt to cultivate Norfolk Island Pines without a permit. It is also illegal to damage, destroy, or otherwise interfere with the species’ habitat. These regulations are intended to protect the species from further decline and promote its recovery. 
  • In addition to the legal protections, the Australian government has also taken steps to protect the species from habitat destruction by designating over 6,000 hectares (14,800 acres) of land on Norfolk Island as a National Park. This provides an important refuge for the species and helps ensure its continued survival.

Norfolk Island Pines may be threatened, but they are most certainly not forgotten. Through legal protection and habitat conservation, the Australian government is doing its part to protect this unique species for future generations – in an attempt to make up for much of the damage and destruction that we have already caused. 

What to do when Norfolk pine gets too tall?

So, what do you do when your Norfolk pine starts getting too tall? Is there anything that you can do to safely reduce its size and make it more manageable? The best (although not ideal) approach will be to prune your tree. 

Unlike many different tree species, pruning a Norfolk pine isn’t actually recommended. Certainly, it’s advised that you cut off any dead branches or tips of dying branches in order to tidy up your tree’s appearance and keep it looking happy and healthy, however, pruning a Norfolk pine doesn’t actually result in a flush of new growth as you might expect. 

If your Norfolk pine was originally a house plant and it has grown too large for your ceiling, you may want to consider planting it outside in your garden. Just make sure that you will have plenty of space for it to flourish. 

  • They do best in peaty, sandy soil. 
  • They are not hardy to cold temperatures so make sure it is planted in a bright and open spot that receives plenty of sunshine (and also that you live in a region that doesn’t experience especially harsh winters).  

Can I cut the top off my Norfolk pine?

One solution that many people consider when the Norfolk pine starts getting a little out of hand in terms of height, is to cut the top off in order to effectively reduce its size. While technically speaking, cutting the top of your Norfolk pine off will indeed reduce its height, it isn’t necessarily the best thing to do. 

In fact, topping your Norfolk pine can actually damage your tree, stunt it, and impede its future growth. Given that Norfolk pines are a protected species; you should be mindful when doing anything that might negatively impact their health. As such, you should only top your Norfolk pine if entirely necessary. 

Conclusion 

While it is unfortunate that the Norfolk Island pine has come close to extinction, the steps that the Australian government is taking to protect and conserve them has gone a long way toward bringing them back and allowing them to flourish in certain areas. Before long it’s safe to say that the Norfolk Island pine will be thriving at full strength. 

If you have a Norfolk pine that is growing too tall and unruly, you’re likely feeling guilty about the prospect of either topping it or getting rid of it entirely. Don’t panic, there are things that you can do to safely manage the tree, namely, contact a reputable arborist like Lakeside Tree Lopping in Perth for their professional assistance. While pruning and topping your Norfolk pine isn’t always recommended, with an expert touch you will surely be able to manage your tree’s size safely, without causing them unnecessary or irreparable damage. 

We hope you’ve found this article insightful and wish you the best of luck with caring for that Norfolk pine of yours.