Araucariaceae (araucaria family) Araucaria

Araucaria heterophylla Norfolk Island pine

Norfolk Island

An extremely attractive, highly formal tree with very unusual leaves arranged to form a smooth cylindrical cage about half an inch in diameter around the twigs. They are sold in tubs as Christmas trees and can, for a time, be grown indoors.

A 10-foot multitrunked specimen is at 924 Mears Court, and two are in the south central area of Wilbur Hall, in movable planting boxes. Two specimens, one 10 feet tall and the other 15 feet, are next to the large pecan tree in the parking lot of Palo Alto’s Lucie Stern Community Center, near the Junior Museum, and another is at 3065 Greer Road, Palo Alto.

The tallest specimen in the United States is at Lanai City, Hawaii, where it had reached 140 feet in 1969. This might surprise Easterners who raise them as houseplants. Before the Chicxulub meteorite impact 65 million years ago, araucarias were growing in Colorado and New Mexico, as witnessed by fossils. The Norfolk Island pine was named by James Cook when he first saw them towering to 200 feet in October 1774. The Australian araucarias produce valuable wood.

Name derivation: Araucaria – Araucani Indians of central Chile; heterophylla – different-leaved.

About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005.