Parana pine (Araucaria angustifolia)

Also known as: Brazilian monkey puzzle tree, Candelabra tree
  
Spanish: Pino Blanco, Pino De Missiones
KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassConiferopsida
OrderConiferales
FamilyAraucariaceae
GenusAraucaria (1)

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1).

A victim of unsustainable commercial logging, the Critically Endangered Parana pine is one of Brazil’s rarest trees (1). This majestic tree has a distinctive, almost ornamental shape, with a flat-topped crown, and whorls of four to eight branches projecting upwards from the tall, finely scaled trunk. The dark green, needle-like leaves are usually arranged in pairs and extend prominently from the branch, giving the Parana pine a 'fluffed out' appearance. The fruit, which is slightly larger on female trees, is a dense, chestnut-brown cone with rows of tightly arranged scales (2).

Restricted to southeastern Brazil and adjacent areas of Argentina and Paraguay, today the Parana pine has a very small range (1). Historically, this species was widespread, but logging in the 20th century is estimated to have removed the Parana pine from around 97 percent of its former range. The last remaining stronghold of the Parana pine is in the regions of General Carneiro and Biturna in the Brazilian state of Parana (2).

The Parana pine grows in subtropical forests, on acidic soils, between 500 and 1,500 metres above sea level in Brazil, and between 500 and 2,300 metres above sea level in Argentina and Paraguay (2).

The Parana pine is a dioecious species, meaning the male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. Pollen is produced between August and October, and in common with other conifers it is dispersed by the wind.  Some two years after pollination, large cones containing the seeds develop in the upper branches of mature trees (1). The cones drop to the ground between May and August, and the seeds are dispersed by a wide variety of animals, including birds and small rodents (1) (3). The seeds are also an important food source for local communities, who have been exploiting them for centuries (2). 

Having suffered from intensive, unsustainable logging throughout the 20th  century, today the Parana pine exists only in relic populations (1). As an important commercial species, the high quality wood of the Parana pine was exploited for the timber trade, and its highly nutritious fruits were sold for human consumption (1) (4). However, the Parana pine now occupies a patchy distribution across a limited range and, consequently, is one of Brazil’s rarest trees (5). Amongst the remaining population, there is a significant lack of fruiting trees, which has severely limited the species’ reproductive ability (4) (5). This has been further compounded by the annual exploitation of 3,400 tons of its fruits and seeds. Attempts have been made to reintroduce the species into parts of its historical range, but this has been prevented by the spread of competitive Pinus and Eucalyptus species, and agricultural encroachment (1).    

The survival of the Parana pine is now dependant upon the implementation of major conservation measures. The Brazilian government introduced a ban on the sale of this species in 2001, preventing further logging, and several protected areas have been created with the objective of protecting remaining populations, including the Campos do Jordao State Park, the Irati National Park and the Cacador National Park (1) (2). Plans have also been developed to maintain the species’ genetic diversity and the number of fruiting trees, through seed collection, improved forestry management practices, and the development of locally coordinated agro-forestry schemes (4) (5). 

For more information on tree conservation, see:

For more information on the Parana pine, see:

Authenticated (21/07/2010) by Philip Thomas, Focal Point, IUCN Conifer Redlist Authority and Scientific Officer, International Conifer Conservation Programme, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
http://www.rbge.org.uk/science/genetics-and-conservation/philip-thomas-homepage

  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. The Gymnosperm Database (February, 2010)
    http://www.conifers.org/ar/ar/angustifolia.html
  3. Enright, N.J. and Hill, R.S. (1995) Ecology of the Southern Conifers. Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.
  4. Stefenon, V.M., Gailing, O. and Finkeldey, R. (2007) Recovery and Conservation of Araucaria Forest in Brazil Through Plantation’s Establishment: a Genetic Point of View. Conference on International Agricultural Research for Development, University of Kassel-Witzenhausen and University of Göttingen.
  5. Medri, C., Ruas, P.M., Higa, A.R., Murakami, M. and De Fatima Ruas, C. (2003) Effects of Forest Management on the Genetic Diversity in a Population of Araucaria angustifolia. Silvae Genetica, 52: 5-6.