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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Araucaria heterophylla - Norfolk Island Pine

The Norfolk Island Pine is a very large evergreen conifer, slow growing to 100'. It has a very formal growth habit with a strong pyramidal shape and whorled lateral branches. Lateral branches very symmetrical as well, slightly arching upwards and appearing flat tiered. There is often a large space between the whorls of branches, especially on young trees. Commonly seen as a house plant. I have seen this tree planted in so many wrong spots, right up against a house, a fence or the street.

Leaves evergreen, simple, linear, 1/4 - 1/2" long, triangular in cross section, radiating around the stem, curved in the middle of the leaf and pointing forward. Very soft. Dark shiny green. Leaves on young stems longer, those on the mature portion shorter and more broad while the leaves on fertile branches are much different, more triangular shaped and tightly arranged. (Hence the name heterophylla)

Globose cones on the ends of the branches of mature trees, 3.5 - 5" long and green at maturity.

Male cones 1.5" long, catkin like. One reference suggests that males are only produced on trees 40+ years old. (Norfolk Island Botanical Gardens home page, accessed 1998, now defunct).

Bark is think, smooth, greenish brown.

Misidentification: There could be a second species in cultivation that is very similar to this one. References suggest that most that originated as nursery stock from Hawaii are A. columnaris which has a much thinner spread of lateral branches, and smaller leaves. (Eckenwalder 2009.) To be honest, I  have not paid much attention but I have noticed that some are quite wide and others are narrow. I will have to pay more attention but looking at pictures online they seem to be very narrow.

Location: Lots, as its often sold as a house plant.
4235 Opal Cliffs Dr.
Corner of Santa Cruz St and West Cliff, (may be different species)
206 Morrissey Blvd is a heritage tree, listed in 2005 and said to be the first of its species to be planted in Santa Cruz, nice Phoenix canariensis as well.

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