Norfolk Island pine
Norfolk Island pine, star pine, triangle tree, living Christmas tree (Eng); araucaria, araucaria excelsa, pino de pisos, pino de Norfolk (Spa).
DID YOU KNOW…? First the European known to have seen this tree was Captain Cook, in 1774, when his expedition discovered Norfolk Island, 1400 km to the east of Australia.
This tree has a resinous aroma, is conical or pyramidal in shape, and reaches 70 m in height. Its overall appearance is reminiscent of a pine or fir; nevertheless, the Norfolk Island pine is characterised by its whorled or verticilated branches: the main branches are practically horizontal and arranged in groups of 4 to 7, forming regular levels along the trunk. The bark is pale grey, rough, finely striated and has small, darker-coloured protrusions. Very flexible, sometimes hanging twigs arise from the main branches that, from the apex to the base, are densely covered by leaves whose morphology and size can vary on a single plant: some are elongated, 8-10 mm in length and somewhat soft, while others, are ovate-triangular, 6 mm long and very rigid. Both types of leaves are persistent, have rather pointed apexes, and curve inwards to some degree. Araucaria heterophylla is almost always a dioecious tree, with male and female flowers on different plants, which take the form of cones. Male cones are only 4 cm long, elongated, and yellowish or reddish brown. When the females are fertilised, they form rounded cones. These are very large (about 10-15 cm in length), upright, and formed of scales terminating in a long, backwards-curving point. When ripe, in the second or third autumn, they become brown and start to open, slowly releasing the scales and seeds, which have a wide membranous wing.
Although the climate of its natural habitat is uniform subtropical, this araucaria adapts well to different temperatures and environments. It toleratesmild frosts, maritime atmospheres, variable precipitation and somewhat dry summers. It has therefore been able to adjust to the various environmental conditions of the Canary Islands, and can grow everywhere from coastal zones to the summits. Even so, it has been most widely cultivated on the midslopes, or medianías (zone between altitudes of 600 and 1500 m).
Endemic to Norfolk Island, to the east of Australia, this tree has been cultivated as an ornamental across the world, the Canary Islands being no exception. According to the observations of the researchers at the 'Viera and Clavijo' botanical gardens, this tree is currently established in the wild on the island of Gran Canaria, but they do not rule out the possibility that the same may have happened on the other islands in the archipelago.