Araucaria heterophylla: Norfolk island pine

Family: Araucariaceae
Common name: Norfolk island pine, Star pine, Living Christmas tree, Triangle tree

Norfolk Island palm is a native of Norfolk Island, a small island in the Pacific Ocean, which has high ecological significance. About 40% of the plants on this island are endemic, or seen only in this geography. About 18 of these species are rare or threatened. Norfolk island palms are now grown all over the world, both indoors and outdoors as ornamental trees.

They can grow to a height of 65 meters when grown outdoors. Indoors, they stay small and only reach a height of 2 meters making it an ideal living room plant. Norfolk island pine tree have a single large trunk from which multiple symmetrical branches radiate outwards, mostly horizontal or curved slightly upwards.

The tree can retain its symmetry even in heavily wind-swept areas where other trees might get contorted. 4-7 leaves originate from a single level, mostly symmetrical, longer leaves at lower levels and shorter leaves as it goes upwards, giving the tree a beautiful conical shape.

Because of their unique shape and symmetry, they are very popular as live Christmas trees, decorated with tinsel and hanging ornaments. Norfolk pine trees produce cones that are about 12 cm long, with almost the same width. Once mature, these cones break down, releasing seeds that are about 3 cms long with wide wings. These nut-like seeds are edible.

The tree is not a true pine, it’s a tropical tree that grows well in warm, humid weather. Norfolk pine trees prefer good sunlight, and must be kept near the window if grown indoors. The tree should also be turned occasionally to ensure that all sides get equal sunlight, and also to prevent the plant from leaning towards the sun. They need good draining soil; as overwatering can be dangerous to an indoor plant.

As an indoor plant, Norfolk palm are thriving; transforming living rooms, offices, malls and super markets. But it’s a threatened species in its natural habitat due to changes in weather and deforestation. Under ideal circumstances they can live for over 150 years.

But their roots are not very deep; so the tree can topple if there is water logging. They could also be struck by lightning due to it’s height and pointy top. Drooping needles or branches, yellowing or browning of leaves indicate unhealthy amounts of water or sunlight, and must be addressed immediately.

Tall Norfolk pine trees can be pruned by cutting the top part, so that new branches will arise from where it was cut. This will ruin the symmetry of the plant, but will not affect its growth or health.

Being a tropical plant, they need more watering and fertilization compared to other pine trees. Also select pots that looks slightly larger than what’s needed for the plant, so that it will not need frequent repotting.

Propagation is from seeds.

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