Scientific name: Araurcaria angustifolia
Plant type: Evergreen tree
Environment: Part to full sun. Best grown in slightly acidic, moist, but well drained soils
Uses: Specimen tree
Andean Cloud Forest – 53I, 54D
Araucaria angustifolia, Kuntze, or the candelabra tree, is a large tree native to southern Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. As a member of the genus Araucaria, A. angustifolia has an ancient lineage, with evidence of the genus appearing in the fossil record close to 200 millions years ago. There are only 20 species of Araucaria, all of which occur in the southern region of the Pacific Ocean in South America and Oceania, with the exception of Araucaria angustifolia, which occurs on the Atlantic coast.
Looking at a young Araucaria angustifolia, one might mistake it for its very close relative Araucaria araucana, the monkey puzzle tree, given the sharp, thick, narrow leaves, however the leaves of Araucaria angustifolia are much narrower. The common name, candelabra tree, comes from the appearance of mature specimen, where the leaves cluster at the ends of whorled branches. The largest living specimen is over 150 feet tall, and there are records of trees exceeding 170 feet tall in the wild. Araucaria angustifolia is dioecious, meaning that male and female cones appear on separate trees.
Today, Araucaria angustifolia is considered to be critically endangered by the IUCN Red List. It is estimated that there was once 200,000 km2 of Araucaria forests, though it is believed they have declined by over 97% in the last century. This is a result of extensive logging, as A. angustifolia was once a favored timber species, and agriculture, as forests are cleared for the planting of crops. The seeds are also edible and are collected to be eaten before they can be dispersed and establish themselves. Though Araucaria angustifolia still faces significant threats, the Brazilian government has banned log exports of this species and portions of its native range are protected in national parks and reserves. Further still, there are close to 100 ex situ collections protecting A. angustifolia around the world, including here at SFBG.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS: Text and profile by Victoria Stewart. Photos by Brendan Lange.