Araucaria heterophylla (Salisb.) Franco

Norfolk Island pine

Family: Araucariaceae

This member of the monkey puzzle family is in the relative warmth of the Palm House. It is, of cause, not a pine, belonging to the family Araucariaceae. The familiar monkey puzzle, Araucaria araucana, is hardy and has thrived in Northern Ireland since introduced shortly after 1844. It is now an icon of the Victorian age that is still planted, sometimes in totally unsuitable front gardens where it can grow to over 30m high! The Norfolk Island pine is much less well known, as it is somewhat frost tender, surviving out of doors only on Tresco in the Scilly Isles. It is one of the most distinctive and elegant trees when fully grown with an amazing symmetry. It is native to a single island north of New Zealand but is cultivated in many warm countries round the world.The two trees in the Botanic Gardens Palm House are only a few years old, but are already quite striking.

Since writing this in 2014, a Norfolk Island pine has been planted out of doors in Mount Stewart Garden where it seems to be doing well. Yet another sign of climate change.

Photos taken in Belfast Botanic Gardens in 2014. Copyright: Friends of Belfast Botanic.