Country of origin: Mexico
Plant: Norfolk Island Pine
Araucaria heterophylla (synonym A. excelsa) is a member of the ancient and now disjointly distributed family Araucariaceae. As its vernacular name Norfolk Island pine implies, the tree is endemic to Norfolk Island, a small island in the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and New Caledonia, about 1440km east of Sydney, Australia. The genus Araucaria occurs across the South Pacific, especially concentrated in New Caledonia (about 700 km due north of Norfolk Island) where 13 closely related and similar-appearing species are found.
The trees grow to a height of 50–65 m, with straight vertical trunks and symmetrical branches, even in the face of incessant onshore winds that can contort most other species. The young leaves are awl-shaped, 1-1.5 cm long, about 1 mm thick at the base on young trees, and incurved, 5–10 mm long and variably 2–4 mm broad on older trees. The thickest, scale-like leaves on coning branches are in the upper crown. The cones are squat globose, 10–12 cm long and 12–14 cm diameter, and take about 18 months to mature. They disintegrate at maturity to release the nut-like edible seeds.
It grows well in deep sand, as long as it receives reliable water when young. This, and its tolerance of salt and wind, makes it ideal for coastal situations. Additionally, it is necessary for the species to be grown in oceanic coastal areas, because bodies of fresh water do not provide enough precipitation, moisture, consistent wind levels and saline air, which are all things the species requires.