February 25, 2008


Araucaria heterophylla

On my drives around the Tampa Bay area I saw a most beautifully shaped conifer with widely spread branches and triangular outline. Good thing my friend knew a little about the flora in Florida and identified it as a Norfolk Island Pine.

Yes, the same pine you've probably purchased in a pot for a small indoor Christmas tree. Reading up on it I found that it grows well in pure sand but is very frost sensitive and can be damaged at temperature below 40 degrees.

When is a pine not a pine ? The name is misleading as the Norfolk is not a pine but a very ancient confer that covered the earth during the Jurassic period. Norfolk Island, off the Australian Coast where this conifer originates, displays it on its flag, as shown above.


  1. Such a nice tree, Carolyn-I've had one in a pot now for three or four years, and it's doing fine. I put it outdoors for the summer and bring it in before frost threatens. The cats don't bother it, and it seems oblivious to pests or diseases. I wish it was hardy--it has that same lovely lateral growth habit as the Mariesii we both so love, and wouldn't it look equally nice in the garden? Oh well...it's the same with the Monkey-puzzle tree, for me--nice to look at or have indoors.

  2. Carolyn,

    Hello.. .Did you got to Florida to escape the Windy City for a few days?
    I lived in Tampa as a child...and when we took our son there to visit a nearby college we had a nice visit. Sometimes I miss the ocean.

    He went to UT-K instead...so we has mountain hikes instead!

    I am digressing. have a pleasant day.


  3. Ah, Carolyn ... The Eastern White Pine (Pinaceae Pinus strobus) is Michigan's State Tree, a true beauty that gave its soul to build many homes throughout the U.S. You are not too far when you return to Chicago ... please call for a tour when you want wind, rain, sleet, snow, balmy breezes, hot sun, and the weather to change every 20 minutes ~ the loveliest spot to vacation from May to October ... that's Northern Michigan, as 'good as it gets'. Sound like a 'tour guide'?

  4. When you wrote about the Norfolk pine I like Jodi immediately thought of the Monkey puzzle tree. Lo and behold it turns out to be a relative, Araucaria araucana. But I've seen the monkey puzzle trees grown here in zone 6 and apparently they can tolerate -20 F temps. so are much hardier than the Norfolk. I remember seeing Norfolk pine in Hawaii and they are a gorgeously shaped huge tree.

  5. The Nursery I used to work for had them everywhere but no one seemed to be buying them. You sure couldn't kill them. We neglected them cause they had moved all over the nursery and eventually ended up as the backdrop for some display. You could not reach them to water. So they got ignored. I guess they liked the moist nursery environment. They sure thrived. I can't picture one really big though. I worked for that nursery for 5 years and I don't think they grew much.

  6. Hi gail,

    I've been down here in Florida since February 1 and haven't missed all the snow and ice storms in Chicago. It's been in the 70's and 80's almost every day. This is my idea of paradise.

  7. Hey Joey,

    I'm a big fan of Pinus Strobus and have sold many of them.

    I also love Nothern Michigan. When the kids were young we would vacation at Cross Village near Mackinaw Island. Lovely, clean and quiet there.

  8. Hi Ki,

    I saw the Monkey Puzzle Tree when I visited Ireland and thought it was very unusual. I didn't realize it was that cold hardy.

    I was struck with the beautiful shape of the Norfolk Island Pine.

  9. Hi Anna,

    I know what you mean. The garden center where I work sells a lot of Norfolks as Christmas trees or house plants.
    Like Jodi said they are easy to care for as an indoor or outdoor plant as long as you protect them from low temperatures.

  10. Hi, Carolyn,

    Thank you for visiting my blog plantwhateverbringsyoujoy.com! I'm reciprocating. Yes, I know the Norfolk Pine. I had one in my office for years and years. I think it finally was sufficiently unhappy in a particular house I moved to that it left us. But I appreciated it's delicacy and sweeping lines. Thanks for bringing it to our attention!

  11. You're welcome, kathryn. I found your blog very interesting and will return again from time to time to catch up with your postings.

  12. Hi Carolyn,

    We saw Monkey Puzzles in Washington State- guess it was zone 9? A friend has a small Araucaria in a pot - not sure of the species but it looks closer to Monkey Puzzle than the pine.

    I've only seen the smaller houseplant versions of the Norfolk Island pine, but the trees play an important role in James Michener's book "Tales from the South Pacific". I don't believe the trees got attention in the stage play or movie, however.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  13. I didn't know that Monkey Puzzles grew in Washington State, Annie.

    I was astonished to learn that the tree I had been admiring from afar was a Norfolk Island Pine because it didn't bear any resemblance to the small potted ones we used for Christmas trees.


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