Family: Araucariaceae

This remarkable genus of 19 species of evergreen conifers grows naturally only in the southern hemisphere, mostly in New Caledonia, but also in Australia, New Guinea, Norfolk Island and South America. It is from South America that the genus gets its name: from the Araucan Indians of southern Chile, home of the fascinating monkey puzzle tree (A. araucana). Most araucarias have a single straight, tall trunk, only occasionally forked, with many small side branches. The leaves of some species curve inward and overlap; in others, they are larger, flatter and spreading. All are sharp-pointed, especially when young. The seed cones vary in size, from 5-6 cm (2-2½ in) to around 25 cm (10 in). Although araucarias are large for home gardens, most make handsome street trees in warm Climates.


A. araucana, monkey puzzle, zone 7, is an extraordinary tree, its crowded branches like a tangle of thick, dark green ropes, draped in regular curves. Its common name, in fact, came from the remark that 'it would puzzle a monkey to climb it'. It has stiff, sharp-pointed, overlapping leaves, each up to 5 cm (2 in) long and 2.5 cm (1 in) wide. Cultivated specimens seldom reach more than 20 m (65 ft). It does well in a cool, misty Climate, but will not tolerate winter temperatures lower than about -20°C (-4°F). It is the hardiest species and is suitable for Cultivation in many parts of the US, where it will eventually grow into a large, stately specimen, dominating the skyline.

A. bidwillii, bunya-bunya pine, zone 9, is native to the warm-temperate rainforests of Australia's southern Queensland. This species appears to tolerate cooler and drier conditions than the other Australasian species, and it can be grown outside successfully in Mediterranean Climates. Long, straight branches extend outwards from the straight trunk, carrying hunches of quite large, dark green, prickly leaves only at the extremities. The bunya-bunya develops into a perfect umbrella shape at the apex, with huge cones resembling a pineapple.

A. columnaris, New Caledonian pine, zone 10, is similar to A. heterophylla, but has shorter, more crowded branches, longest near the top of the tree. The trunk is usually slightly curved. It is rarely planted these days, probably because of the scarcity of seed, although trees between 50 and 100 years old can often be seen in Australia.

A. cunninghamii, hoop pine, zone 10, is native to New Guinea and the subtropical rainforests of Australia where it is also grown for its timber. Its natural habitats range from deep coastal sands to craggy ridge-tops with almost no soil. The hoop pine grows relatively quickly to heights of 30 m (100 ft) or more. It has a straight trunk and upward-pointing branches. The bunches of thick, sombre green foliage are scattered over the crown, producing an unmistakable silhouette. The small, pointed leaves curve inwards, while the younger ones are longer and prickly. The common name refers to the ridges that encircle the trunk as the tree matures.

A. heterophylla, Norfolk Island pine, zone 10, is a familiar sight on the Australian coast, although mostly known as a pot plant in other parts of the world. It is easily distinguishable from the other species by its pyramidal shape and its whorls of symmetrical branches. It has triangular, scale-like, deep green leaves. Both A. heterophylla and A. bidwillii are susceptible to attack by the yellow-banded mealy bug.

A. hunsteinii, klinki pine, zone 10, grows naturally in the New Guinea highlands and shows promise as a quick-growing ornamental in suitable Climates. Its foliage is like that of A. bidwillii.


Araucarias prefer deep, moist, well-drained, reasonably fertile soil, and a sunny position, but will grow in a range of soil types. Propagate from seed sown in spring.


There are species suited to various Climate zones.

Aralia      Arbutus