Friday, May 16, 2008

Monkey Puzzle tree (Araucaria Araucana)

The story goes that the Monkey Puzzle tree got its peculiar name when someone in England looked at it and exclaimed "a monkey would be puzzled at how to climb that tree!". One look at the sharp, pointy leaves of this tree is enough to make one understand the comment and in case you are wondering there are no monkeys in this trees native range which just happens to be the South American country of Chile.

The Monkey puzzle tree (the scientific name is Araucaria araucana) is a tree that is sometimes referred to as a "living fossil" for being a remnant species that is found in the fossil record and has very few surviving relatives. There are some other species that still survive in the Araucaria genus among which are the Norfolk Island Pine, the Cook Pine and the Bunya Pine.

I came across an interesting piece of Araucaria natural history recently while visiting a rock shop at the Vantage Washington Ginkgo Petrified Forrest. What you see in the image below are fossilized Araucaria cones that have been carefully cut in half. If you look closely you can even see the cross-section of the seeds.
I took these pictures of a Monkey puzzle tree in Portland Oregon and in the image below you can see how one of them has spontaneously reproduced on its own.

I´ve also posted about the Araucaria araucana in "Exploring the World´s Tree Species2.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Maritime Pine - Pinus Pinaster

The Maritime Pine or Cluster Pine as it is sometimes called (Pinus pinaster) is a common evergreen tree along the coastal regions of Spain and Portugal. It has a fairly close resemblance to the Allepo pine, Italian Stone pine and the Canary Island pine which are also common in its habitat range.
The seed cones of the Maritime pine are fairly large measuring about 6 inches in length and 2 inches wide closed and 3 inches wide opened. The needle type leaves are also about six inches long and occur in pairs as can be seen in the image below. These needles are also quite thick and sturdy.
These pine cones open while still attached to the branch and often stay attached long after the seeds have fallen out. The tree below that I found while hiking in the Pinsapo forest near Yunquerra gave the impression that it had never let any of its cones drop. This of was not the case though as the ground was also covered with many old cones. This particular tree was a super cone producer.
The pollen cones of the Maritime pine remind me a lot of those of the Canary Island Pine both in size and also how the are surrounded by the long stout needles. The needles of the Pinus Canarienes are not nearly as stout though.

The bark of this tree species can be clearly seen in the image below and has a characteristic grooves or ruts that form as the tree grows.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Canary Island Pine - Pinus Canariensis

The Canary Island Pine is an evergreen tree with long needle type leaves and fairly large cones. This tree species is native to the Canary Islands (part of Spain but located off the west coast of Africa) but has been widely planted in Andalucia. The images in this post were taken at several parks in the city of Malaga on the Spanish sun coast.
The oblong shaped cones measure about 7-8 inches long and 2-3 inches wide before they open. The needles are quite long measuring about 10 inches in length.
The visual effect of the new pollen cones and the long needles hanging down is quite interesting. They look like little heads poking out of round puffy collars. Shaking the branch when these pollen cones reach full maturity can result in quite a shower of yellow, powdery pollen!

One curious thing about this tree species when the trees get older is the "hairy" trunks covered with short, leafy clumps of needles. In downtown Malaga at the "paseo el parque" there is a group of about 7-8 of these trees that all present this hairy trunk effect. The image below is of one of these.
Other Mediterranean pines include Pinus pinea, Pinus halepensis, Pinus pinaster.

Another Evergreen tree native to Spain is the Abies Pinsapo