Name: Norfolk Island Pine aka, Araucaria heterophylla
Type of Plant: Evergreen conifer that has a straight trunk and symmetrical branches…Native to Norfolk Island which is in the ocean almost equidistant from New Zealand and Australia, but these are not true pine trees. (This means that they are not in the genus Pinus.) It grows well in sand and tolerates coastal wind, but unfortunately it isn’t hardy in New England. These plants need the warmth of zone 10 or 11…tropical conditions.
Why I Love/Hate this plant: We might not be able to grow these trees outside, but they make lovely houseplants. Many places sell them at this time of year (often sprayed with glitter or decorated with cheap ornaments – avoid those) for indoor holiday tree substitutes. They are a low-maintenance houseplant that likes bright light but doesn’t need direct sun.
A Word to the Wise:
In the out of doors these grow to be huge trees. They can get large inside too, but you can slow them down by not repotting them too frequently, and keeping the fertilizer on the organic and mild side. These plants don’t like to be too wet or too dry, so they are good for people who pay attention to their houseplants on a regular basis.
Interesting fun fact about this plant: It was sighted by Captain James Cook in 1774 on his second trip to the South Pacific on the HMS Resolution. Cook originally thought that the tall, straight trunks would be good for making masts for the sailing ships, but later it was found that the wood wasn’t strong enough for this purpose.