Perhaps you were introduced to Norfolk Island pine in the form of a small plant decked out in red ribbon and teeny tiny decorations for the holidays. Many Norfolk Island pines spend their first years as houseplants, yet they eventually reach enormous heights. I get a call or two every year from someone whose plant has become so large that it is almost touching the ceiling. Although not the most forgiving of houseplants, Norfolk Island pines thrive when given the appropriate conditions (plenty of strong light, and cool temperatures). Finding out how and where these plants develop in their natural environment is the greatest method to ensure their long-term success as houseplants.
Norfolk Island Pine
A grocery store is selling a miniature Norfolk Island pine in a gift-wrapped pot. Araucaria heterophylla, or Norfolk Island pine, is a common houseplant present throughout the winter holidays. These delightful little trees are frequently presented for use as miniature Christmas trees, but their cheery presence can be appreciated much beyond December. Although in its native environment the Norfolk Island pine can reach impressive heights, this tree grows slowly in cultivation. This potted tree will not amaze you with its rapid growth; it will likely reach 5–8 feet in height after roughly a decade. Some Floridians who receive a Norfolk Island pine as a holiday present may be able to transplant it into the yard, following the pattern set by many other popular houseplants. However, it should be mentioned that this native coastal tree is not particularly sturdy during hurricanes. The tree grows slowly but can reach heights of 50-65 meters (160-210 feet), with vertical trunks and symmetrical branches that remain straight despite the constant onshore breezes that twist most other species. It has a straight stem with five levels formed by horizontal or oblique branches; the plane of each level is a complete pentagon. Smaller than it would be outside, the tree stays that way if brought inside. Dissolving in tiny flakes, the bark is a uniform greyish brown. The whorl size ranges from four to seven at the tips of the more or less horizontal to sometimes drooping branches. Depending on the age of the tree, the leaves will either be soft and awl-shaped, 1-1.5 cm (38-916 in) long, and approximately 1 mm (132 in) thick at the base, or they will be incurved, 5-10 mm (316-1332 in) long, and variable 2-4 mm (332-532 in) broad. The upper crown of a conifer is where you’ll find the largest, most scale-like leaves. The squat, globose cones take around 18 months to mature and measure 10-12 cm (4-5 in) in length and 12-14 cm (5-6 in) in diameter. At maturity, they collapse, exposing the edible seeds, which resemble nuts. The length of the seeds is between 2.5 and 3 centimeters (1 and 1+1/8 in), and the width of the wings is about 1.2 centimeters (1/2 in). There are four cotyledons in this specimen. Even though it can be monoecious, this tree is dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants).
Records show that Captain James Cook was the first European to set eyes on Norfolk Island. On his second trip to the South Pacific in the HMS Resolution in 1774, Cook noticed the presence of extensive forests filled with tall, straight trees that might be used as masts and yards for sailing ships. Norfolk Island pine trees were initially considered for this purpose, but the concept was scrapped when British convicts arrived on the island in 1788 and discovered the trees were not hardy enough. In the late 1950s, Norfolk Island attempted to establish a timber export sector by sending a trial shipment of Norfolk pine logs to plywood producers in Sydney, New South Wales. Despite positive reports from plywood manufacturers, the Norfolk Island Advisory Council has chosen to keep timber harvesting exclusively for domestic purposes. Similarly to the similarly utilized Cook pine, this wood turns well and sees considerable use by Hawaii’s crafters.
Araucarias, which includes Norfolk Island pines, is a prehistoric family of conifers that were exceedingly diversified and extensive during the Jurassic and Cretaceous epochs. Araucarias trees were native to the northern hemisphere but went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous Period, along with the dinosaurs. Members of the Araucarias family, however, persisted and even flourished in the southern hemisphere. Presently, there are 41 species spread throughout three genera (Agathis, Araucaria, and Wollemi). This tree was originally grown on Norfolk Island, a small island in the South Pacific between Australia and New Zealand. The Norfolk Island pine is so important that it appears on the flag of this Australian territory. While these plants are typically sold as miniature Christmas trees in the United States, in their natural habitat they may grow to an incredible height of 200 feet with trunks that grow to a whopping 10 feet in diameter! These trees often top out between 60 and 80 feet tall in Florida. When compared to the tree, the people of New Zealand seem like mere insects. This is a mature Norfolk pine.
When compared to the mature Norfolk Island pine in this New Zealand park, the people standing next to it look like ants. Their tiers of branches, thin pyramid or columnar form, and small evergreen leaves all make them look like pines, but they are not. There is only one straight trunk in a Norfolk Island pine, which can sometimes droop gracefully. These trees are tropical in nature, therefore their northern range is around Orlando. They require high humidity and temperatures above 35 degrees to grow. It should come as no surprise that plants native to coastal areas would have a high salt tolerance.
Norfolk Island Pines: A Quick Overview
Despite their name, the Araucaria heterophylla trees native to Norfolk Island are not real pine trees. Instead, they are evergreen conifers that retain their foliage throughout the year. The name “Snowy Mountain Pine” may lead you to believe that these trees are native to snowy mountain tops, but in reality, they are tropical trees native to the same South Pacific region that is home to Australia, New Caledonia, and New Zealand.
Norfolk Island pines, with their sturdy, straight trunks and branches covered in scale-like leaves, are hungry for the same climatic conditions as other surprising Christmas tree possibilities like the Christmas cactus and monkey puzzle tree, both of which are native to the Southern hemisphere. The Norfolk Island pine thrives in high humidity and strong sunlight. Even when the holidays are over, these wonderful plants can be preserved as houseplants and even grow to considerable heights in the garden. Typical heights for these conifers, which are members of the Araucarias family, are over a hundred feet in their native habitat of the sunny tropics. Norfolk Island pine trees are capable of reaching heights of several stories, even in the humid and sunny environments of places like Florida and Hawaii in the United States.
A Guide to the Norfolk Island Pine Tree’s Propagation and Maintenance.
Although Norfolk Island pines require little in the way of upkeep, they nonetheless need the same careful attention to detail as any other plant. If you’re thinking of bringing some of their perpetual holiday cheer into your home or garden, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Make a dish or plant a garden. The Norfolk Island pine is a versatile plant that does well in both indoor and outdoor settings. The proper potting soil is essential if you plan on keeping these as houseplants. It’s best, to begin with, a potting mix made of peat moss. These plants need moisture, but not too much, so make sure the pot you purchase has large drainage holes at the bottom. Before planting the tree outside, check the USDA Hardiness Zone Map to be sure it will survive the winter in your location.
- Facilitate their growth by providing them with water and light. For the Norfolk Island pine to thrive, it is necessary to create an environment similar to its natural setting, which is warm and humid. If you want to keep the trees healthy, you should use a bright source of indirect light instead of direct sunlight. Try to locate your tree near a south-facing window. If you worry that you may forget to mist your plants regularly, a humidifier is a good investment.
- Tend to the foundation. Root rot is a common problem for Norfolk Island pines. If you notice that the leaves of these trees are turning brown or wilting, you might want to investigate what’s going on at their roots. To avoid this, make sure the soil mixture isn’t too damp. If it is too late to prevent the problem from occurring, you can try removing the rotten, clumpy roots and then rinsing and repotting the plant in soil that is kept in a fairly humid environment.
- Do the right thing and fertilize. The fertilization of these pines ought to be a secondary priority. If you want to give them a little extra boost with fertilizer, you just need to do it approximately once every two weeks. If you do this once a season, you can keep your trees healthy without drowning them.
- Keep the bugs at bay. These trees are just as vulnerable to insect pests as the rest of the plants in your house or garden. Make use of a pesticide to forestall the emergence of aphids, mealybugs, and similar pests.
- Consider their stature. Remember that young Norfolk Island pines want to grow—and very high—if you keep them as a houseplant. Even though tropical plants grow slowly, you may want to consider cutting back a tree if it gets too tall for its space.
- It’s fine to prune if you like. Pruning entails reducing the tree to the desired height, removing and discarding the lopped-off branches, and replanting the tree. For a more balanced appearance, you may clip the higher branches now while leaving the lower ones alone.
- Think about the spread. Norfolk Island pines can be propagated either by planting seeds or by using cuttings. In most cases, buying seeds rather than harvesting them from a tree is the best option. Taking cutting off a tree’s limb and replanting it will not result in new growth of the same species. After that, report the Norfolk Island pine as you would any other cutting, taking into account the specific soil mixture it requires.
Care and Maintenance of Planted Objects
These plants require high levels of humidity and intense light when grown indoors. If your plant isn’t flourishing, it’s probably because it isn’t getting enough water or sunlight.
As Floridians, we’re well-versed in humidity’s effects, but we do everything we can to keep it out of our houses; how, then, can you create a humid environment for your houseplants? The solution is not to overwater, as Norfolk Island pines do not like soggy soil. To avoid having the plant’s pot sit directly in water, fill a saucer with water and rocks or gravel, then set the potted plant on top. You have successfully manufactured a microclimate with exceptionally high humidity. Once you’ve located the brightest area of your home, you should turn the plant once a week to ensure that it grows in a vertical position.
Planting young Norfolk Island pines
This tree’s unusual appearance, with its widely spaced branches and symmetrical, triangular outline, has made it a popular cultivated species, both as a solitary specimen and as part of avenue plantings. Depending on how the tree develops, it may lose its symmetrical shape as it ages. Despite the endemic connotation of its name, Norfolk Island pine is now found in locations with suitable Mediterranean and humid subtropical temperatures all over the world thanks to its popularity as an ornamental tree due to its exotic, attractive appearance and very broad climatic adaptation. The plant does well in deep sand as long as it is consistently watered while it is young. The fact that it can withstand the effects of salt and wind makes it a great choice for coastal areas. In a controlled environment, the plant does best in bright, cool light. No direct sunlight or temperatures more than 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit) should hit indoor trees. To survive the colder months, the plant needs bright, indirect sunlight and temperatures between 10 and 15 °C (50 and 59 °F). It is now known that many of the “Norfolk Island pines” now found in Hawaii, as well as their offspring cultivated as potted ornamentals on the U.S. mainland, are closely related to Cook pines, which were misidentified upon introduction.
It is not uncommon for young trees to be cultivated as houseplants and even used as Christmas trees in regions where the winters are too cold for them to grow outside (for example, they will not live outdoors in most of North America or Europe). In extremely cold climates, it will perish. A small number of plants, however, can be seen flourishing in the subtropical Tresco Abbey Gardens on the British Isle of Scilly. One young tree on Valentia Island off the coast of Ireland is the northernmost known living example. The tendency of young trees grown in containers to look sparse can be mitigated by clustering them. If you live in a northern region, you can leave them outside all summer to help them grow bigger and stronger. Growing Norfolk Island pines in South Florida is a major industry that supplies the worldwide need for indoor plants. Most of these are sent out in November to various grocery stores, discount stores, and garden centers. Many of them are sprayed with a thin layer of green paint just before being sold to boost their visual appeal; but, if the plant is unable to photosynthesize properly, it may wither and die. The trees, when planted outside, will need plenty of room to mature to their full size. Widespread plantings of the trees can be found in both Southern California’s coastal regions and South Florida, where their height rarely exceeds 100 feet (100 feet).
The Araucaria heterophylla has been honored with the prestigious Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.
Affordability and Weediness
Since it is cultivated professionally for potted plants, the houseplant trade poses no threat to the species’ existence. However, in their natural habitats, A. The numbers of heterophylla have been drastically decreasing ever since Captain Cook’s time. Its original three-island population has been drastically diminished due to farming, poor land management, and the introduction of exotic species. The most significant remnant forests are currently protected within Norfolk Island National Park. There is a high risk of extinction for this species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The North Island of New Zealand is seeing seedlings of this species appear under the native coastal forest, adding to the already numerous “Wild Pine” species that are a major problem in the country.
Keep in mind that your Norfolk Island pine will eventually become rather large if you choose to plant it in a prominent location in your yard. Make sure you have enough space for a mature tree of 60–80 feet in height. Or, you may just take pleasure in having this charming small tropical tree in your home.