Family : Araucariaceae
Text © Pietro Puccio
English translation by Mario Beltramini
The species is native to New Caledonia where it grows confined in small surviving isolated populations in the central and southern part of the island, from the sea level up to about 1000 m of altitude, on ultrabasic soils.
The name of the genus comes from that of a Chilean ethnic group, the Araucanos, in whose territories lives the first discovered species, the Araucaria araucana; the name of the species is the Latin term “luxurians” = luxuriant, lush, with obvious reference.
Common names: coast araucaria (English); araucaria de Nouvelle Calédonie (French); araucária de Nova Caledônia (Portuguese); pino luxuriante (Spanish).
The Araucaria luxurians (Brongn. & Gris) de Laub. (1970) is an evergreen columnar tree , tall up to about 30 m, with cylindrical trunk, erect, with the greyish bark falling apart in thin vertical stripes, with 5-7 main lateral branches, 2-3 m long, placed in whorls (circularly inserted on the same node).
It has leaves with marked dimorphism, the leaves of the young plants are ovate, 0,6-1,2 cm long, those of the adult plants are similar to imbricate scales, about 0,6 cm long and 0,5 cm broad.
Terminal inflorescences, “cones”, unisexual on the same plant, the male ones, produced in the lower half of the top, are cylindrical, of 12-17 cm of length, and 2,5-2,8 cm of diameter, formed by triangular and pointed scales with 12-15 pollen sacks, the female ones, produced in the upper part of the top, 10-12 cm long and of 8-10 cm of diameter, are formed by bracts long up to 1 cm spirally placed, of form almost obovate with thin lateral wing and pointed apex, each one merged to an ovuliferous scale in the inner part.
The seeds are 3-3,5 cm long with triangular lateral wings which help their dispersion by means of the wind. It reproduces by seed in draining soil, kept humid, at the temperature of 22-24 °C.
Quite ornamental, but little diffused, species, cultivable in the tropical, subtropical and warm temperate climate zones, in full sun, the young plants require a slight shade; it is not particular about the soil provided the same is deep and draining.
It can be utilized as isolated specimen or in group in great parks and gardens, even in proximity to the sea.
The species is included into the red list of the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) as “Endangered” (at very high risk of extinction in nature in the forthcoming future).
Synonyms: Araucaria cookii var. luxurians Brongn. & Gris (1871); Araucaria columnaris f. luxurians (Brongn. & Gris) E.H.Wilson (1926); Eutassa luxurians (Brongn. & Gris) de Laub. (2009).
The photographic file of Giuseppe Mazza