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History of Wilson Botanic Park Berwick

When you wander through Wilson Botanic Park Berwick, it is hard to imagine how the site has changed over millions of years. You may not think of fossils, rainforests or volcanoes but these are a very important part of the park's history.

Virtual Geoheritage Tour of Wilson Botanic Park Berwick

Discover the geological history of the park while taking in the beauty of this botanical wonderland all while not leaving your seat! Watch the video below or on YouTube.

You can also read the transcript of the tour.

Ancient Volcanic Activity

Palaeontologists have calculated that about 25 million years ago volcanic eruptions caused molten basalt to form basalt flows. One of these basalt flows has been dated 21.7 million years old.

The volcanic activity caused an extrusion of lava which covered the ground. The Basalt Cliff shows cracks that occurred as the rock started to cool down.


Wilson Botanic Park Berwick is home to a significant plant fossil site. Fossil plant material has been uncovered in several forms. Macrofossils form tree trunks, leaves, fruits and seedpods. The Macrofossils travel long distances through air and water as they reflect local and regional vegetation.

Fossils from this site are from the Miocene period (22 million years ago). This is the oldest dated eucalypt fossil deposit in Australia and it has been studied by universities nationwide.

Fossil with leaves
Fossil with acorn

Periods of sedimentation followed the eruptions, leaving sands and mud on the basalt plain. As a result, large pieces of fossilized (petrified) wood have been found, including fossils of conifers and hardwoods. You will find some of these ancient species planted here at the park.

Our most famous fossil at this site is the only known fossil containing leaves of both Nothofagus (Southern Beech Tree) and Eucalyptus. This is particularly important because it shows a period in history when this area had Tropical (Beech) and Temperate (Eucalyptus) trees at the same time. This shows a period where this area shifted climatic conditions.


William and James Wilson bought 632 acres of Crown Land in 1854. This became the 'Olde' Berwick district.

Wheat was sown on the western side of the land after it was cleared of its forest growth of redgum, box and native hop. The land was then used for sheep and dairying. The brothers built Quarry Hills house which is still a private house today.

When William married, the land was divided between the brothers. William kept the homestead to the south and James kept the northern area bordering on Harkaway Rd.

Quarry & Basalt Cliff

The park was formerly a basalt quarry (basalt is also called bluestone). Initially, the rock was used to construct the railway line to Gippsland, from Oakleigh to Bunyip. The crushed rock supports the sleepers on which the rails are attached.

The quarry was founded by William Wilson in 1859. Mr Wilson recognised a business opportunity and began excavating the site. His quarry would soon become renowned for producing some of the highest quality basalts in the Melbourne region.

The quarry stopped operating in 1976. After 117 years, removing the rock with large machinery was no longer economical. The former quarry has left a rock face along the east side of Basalt Lake, which shows the rocks formed due to volcanic activity.

Basalt rock wall  Basalt rock wall

Botanical Gardens

The most enduring gift to the people of Casey was made by George and Fay Wilson in 1973. They donated 17 hectares of land (the northern part of the park) to be retained in perpetuity as a public park.

The park was to be known as Wilson Park in recognition of the early pioneers and in memory of James Wilson and his son George. The southern section of the park (13.34 hectares) was purchased by the City of Casey in 1985 and so planning for the park began.

In 1992, the Honourable Bill Hayden A.C., Governor General, opened Wilson Botanic Park Berwick, in memory of early pioneers.

Wollemi Pine

The Wollemi Pine was discovered in 1994 by National Parks Officer David Noble. The pine was growing in a secluded gully in the Wollemi National Park, approximately 100km north of Sydney.

Fossil plant experts studied cuttings of leaves from the unusual trees.  Pollen from the trees was studied and determined to be ‘Dilwynites’ previously considered extinct.

Wilson Botanic Park also has similar fossilised pollen material. Experts also found many other species of plants in the material dug up from the fossil discovery site. The topography of the park is suitable to grow the Wollemi Pine as the hills and cliffs protect the trees from heat and winds.

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