Araucaria heterophylla is normally known as the Norfolk Island Pine, Monkey Puzzle or Monkey Tail tree and is an evergreen coniferous tree commonly found in its natural surroundings in the southern hemisphere. It is often referred to as a living fossil as the species dates back to the Mesozoic Era.
The Araucaria tree has widely spaced branches that are symmetrical and triangular in shape. The leaves can be needle-like, grow in whorls and sometimes overlap each other. Male and female cones are found on different trees, although these may change gender over time. The cones contain pine nuts that are edible seeds. The trees attain heights of about 70 to 80 feet.
This tree is native to islands in the South Pacific and can grow in deep sand. It grows in New Caledonia, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina and southern Brazil. It is tolerant to wind and salt water blown in to the shore. The tree is cultivated as an indoor plant in the northern hemisphere. Some species are unsuited to outdoor planting in the cooler northern climates.
The seeds and saplings of Araucaria may be available all year round. But it is always preferable to sow fresh seeds from the southern hemisphere that are available between March and April to grow new saplings.
The plant is a member of the Araucariaceae family of conifers. Their greatest distribution on Earth occurred between the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, about 100 million to 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs were at their most numerous. Araucariaceae became extinct in the northern hemisphere together with the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.
Once planted, the sapling requires regular watering and treatment with an all-purpose fertiliser. Extra phosphorus will help root development. It develops new growth in the spring and can become tolerant to drought. It does not need pruning but flourishes in full sun.
Did You Know?
The Mapuche indigenous tribe in southern and central Chile call their traditional tribal lands, “Araucaria”. They venerated the Araucaria tree as sacred and do not eat the raw seeds. Instead, they grind and cook the seeds to make a form of polenta.