Moreton Bay Figs and Presentation Oaks

Location: Near East Wing ; Western Entrance to The Avenue ; Eastern Entrance off Bay View Terrace.

Totem Text: From Acorn to Oak; two widely known and celebrated Presentation symbols. The Moreton Bay Fig Trees at Iona act as a reminder of the Oak Trees found in Ireland, representing the amazing growth possible from a single small seed. Nano’s first school in Cove Lane, Cork, grew to a ‘global tree’ of Presentation People all over the world.

The Oak Tree is strong and firm and whilst it originates from a small seed, it grows and expands, which is not dissimilar to the arrival of the Presentation charism in Mosman Park and the opportunity for a unique, life-changing Presentation education between river and sea in Mosman Park. As we know, trees that are very old have the potential to produce thousands of tree nuts. Likewise, thousands of students have passed through the doors of Iona having received a faith-filled Presentation education and wherever they are in the world today, they each form part of a ‘global tree’ of Presentation people.

The humbling beginnings of the Presentation Sisters has often been described as “from acorn to oak.” For no reason other than small seeds (acorns) grow into large, leafy trees (oaks), whose leaves provide shade and shelter (physically and metaphorically) and which, in time, bear fruit. Small seeds were planted as a Catholic education institution when Iona first opened its doors in February 1907, and whilst seeds continue to be planted with the students currently receiving a Presentation education, the fruit of the sacrifice, determination, courage and faith of Venerable Nano Nagle and the founding Sisters at the College is evident in the calibre of students and staff that are proud to call themselves ‘Ionians’.

Many Presentation Convents, especially in Ireland, have feature oak trees in their grounds as symbolic to their connection to the greater presentation family. Within the convents, there was often a depiction of an oak tree – “Emblematic Tree of the Presentation Order of Nuns” showing the main trunk of oak tree as the Foundation House of the Order in Cork, and the acorns on all the branches as the various congregations and convents that were then established, along with their location and year of foundation.

Oral anecdotes indicate that it is thought that the Founding Sisters at Iona planted Moreton Bay Fig Trees in ‘The Avenue’ thinking that they were in fact magnolias which would be very beautiful. There is an Oak Tree planted near the Convent which was grown from a seed and given to the Sisters to plant by the Father of two past pupils. It is understood that Mother Albeus Fahey led the planting of this tree in an unknown year on the Feast of the Holy Family. Some of the Sisters expressed their concern at the location of where it was planted in that as it grew it risked damaging the garages. In her usual witty way, Sr Albeus replied, “I don’t think we will be around to worry about it.”


Presentation Sisters North East Ireland. (n.d). From Acorn to Oak. Retrieved September 2020 from