The Register of Significant Trees reflects the heritage of Sydney. The trees listed are sometimes all that remains of lost natural and cultural landscapes.

While you may at first be struck by the sheer size, scale and impact of trees on the register, they also have natural, aesthetic, scientific, social, spiritual or historic connections.

Some trees are linked to old trade routes, connections and communications. Others can be symbols of great spiritual power. They may be associated with individual people and communities, or tell stories of other times and places.

Environmental significance

Our significant trees are a product of natural environmental opportunities, the cultural impact of landscape modification and human intervention over time. The former natural vegetation patterns are now overlaid by cultivated landscape elements, and to some extent plants that have escaped gardens.

Some remnant trees from former natural ecological communities may provide valuable habitat and corridors for fauna, including endangered and dependent species. These trees also offer a valuable gene pool for future scientific research, conservation and restoration.

Listed trees may also be part of significant sites, such as early estates, and contribute a leafy setting for important buildings and spaces.

By recognising significant trees in a local area, we can bring greater meaning to the past and a richer understanding of the present. This in turn can provide the basis for better methods of protection, care and management for the future.

Context and place

Significant trees are inextricably linked to particular places and help define the broader context and character of the landscape. Some listings are of groups or avenues of trees, which are recognised as significant as a whole, whilst the component trees might not be considered significant individually.

Cultural and historic plantings also reflect intricate patterns of development, providing a guide to the way the landscape has changed since the first European settlement. Significant groups of cultivated trees can be traced back to:

  • large private estates and ‘marine villas’
  • early trading and transport corridors
  • educational and other government institutions
  • Crown lands and commons
  • outlying village centres.

These trees are often an integral part of the layering of associations of places and people.

Assessing heritage significance is a dynamic process that changes over time. It reflects the way people interact and perceive the relative importance of places and items, particularly as parts of our collective heritage are lost.

The City considers the full range of criteria in determining whether a tree should be listed as significant. We do a detailed investigation, comparative analysis and review of the context and importance of a tree before it is listed.

Just because a tree is particularly large or magnificent, does not necessarily mean it should be included on the register. Some trees, such as eucalypts, grow relatively quickly to dramatic size, but may not be assessed as significant.

Other relatively small trees are included because of their extraordinary botanic or scientific value. For example they may be rare or threatened species.

Protecting all valuable trees

The City has detailed tree management policies. If a tree is not listed on the register, it does not mean that it is regarded as less valuable or that it can be destroyed.

As living, growing organisms, trees make their own impact over time. A sapling or immature tree that has little historic, social and visual significance today, may be regarded as having great significance by future generations.

Find out how the City is protecting other valuable trees.