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Araucaria

Araucariaceae
Evergreen, Trees

These strange looking conifers provide a distinctive silhouette with their evenly spread tiers of stiff branches. Most have stiff, closely overlapping, dark to bright-green leaves. All do well in a wide range of soils with adequate drainage.

Make impressive skyline trees and are seen in that role in many parks and old estates, especially in California, but they become so towering that they really do need the space they have in a park or large, open property. Not trees to sit under: with age they bear large, spiny, 10–15-lb. cones that fall with a crash. They thrive in containers for several years, even in desert areas.

Araucaria araucana (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)
Araucaria araucana (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)

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Araucaria araucana

Native to Chile. An arboreal oddity whose heavy, spreading branches and ropelike branchlets are closely set with sharp-pointed leaves. Slow growing in youth, it eventually reaches 70–90 ft. tall and 30 ft. wide. This is the hardiest of the araucarias.

Araucaria bidwillii

Native to Australia. Moderate growth; broadly rounded crown supplies dense shade. Juvenile leaves are glossy, rather narrow, 3/4–2 in. long, stiff, more or less spreading in two rows; mature leaves are oval, 1/2 in. long, rather woody, spirally arranged and overlapping along branches. Unusual houseplant; very tough and ­tolerant of low light.

Araucaria heterophylla (photo courtesy of Doreen L. Wynja)
Araucaria heterophylla (photo courtesy of Doreen L. Wynja)

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Araucaria heterophylla

Native to Norfolk Island, near Australia. Grows moderately fast to 100 ft. tall and 60 ft. wide, with a pyramidal shape. Juvenile leaves are rather narrow, 1/2 in. long, curved, sharp pointed; mature leaves are somewhat triangular, densely overlapping. Can be held in pots for years—outdoors in mild climates, indoors anywhere. Popular as a Christmas tree in Hawaii.

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