Saturday, 14 March 2009

Araucaria columnaris

Curtis's Botanical Magazine nº 4635, vol 78 (1852)

In this country our first knowledge of this tree is derived from young plants kindly sent to the Royal Gardens in the autumn of 1851 by the Horticultural Society of London, and his Excellency Sir William Denison, Governor of Van Diemen's Land. Capt. Erskine, R.N., of H.M.S. Havannah, had recently visited New Caledonia and some of the adjacent islands, and had invited Mr. Moore, of the Botanic Garden, Sydney, to accompany him ; and to Mr. Moore's energy and kindness we are indebted for the re-discovery of this tree and for the possession of specimens he lately sent to us, and which are here figured. To Capt. Cook, the great circumnavigator, in his second voyage, however, is due the first discovery of this Araucaria, in the little islands off New Caledonia, and subsequently on the main island:—"On one of the western small isles was an elevation' like a tower ; and over a low neck of land, within the isle, were seen many other elevations resembling the masts of a fleet of ships ;" and again, a few days after, " as we drew near Cape Coronation, we saw in a valley to the south of it a vast number of those elevated objects before mentioned, and some low land under the foreland was covered with them. We could not agree in our opinions of what they were. I supposed them to be a singular sort of trees, being too numerous to resemble anything else ; and a great deal of smoke kept rising all the day from amongst those near the Cape. Our philosophers were of opinion that this was the smoke of some internal and perpetual fire. My representing to them that there was no smoke here in the morning would have been of no avail, had not this internal fire gone out before night, and no more smoke been seen after. They were still more positive that the elevations were pillars of basaltes, like those which compose the Giant's Causeway in Ireland." On nearing the island, a few days later, " every one was satisfied they were trees, except our philosophers, who still maintained they were basaltes." To the commander " they had much the appearance of tall pines, which occasioned my giving that name to the island." " I was, however, determined not to leave the coast till I knew what trees these were which had been the subject of our speculation, especially as they appeared to be of a sort useful to shipping, and had not been seen anywhere but in the southern part of this land." At length Capt. Cook landed, accompanied by the Botanists. " We found the tall trees to be a kind of Spruce Pine, very proper for spars, of which we were in want. We were now no longer at a loss to know of what trees the natives made their canoes. On this little isle were some which measured twenty inches diameter, and between sixty and seventy feet in length, and would have done well for a foremast to the Resolution had one been wanting. Since trees of this size are to be found on so small a spot, it is reasonable to expect to find some, much larger on the main and larger isles ; and if appearances did not deceive us, we can assert it. If I except New Zealand, I, at this time, knew of no island in the South Pacific Ocean where a ship could supply herself with a mast or a yard, were she ever so much distressed for want of one. My carpenter, who was a mast-maker as well as shipwright, was of opinion, that these trees would make exceedingly good masts. The wood is white, close-grained, tough, and light.

Turpentine had exuded out of most of the trunks, and the sun had inspissated it into a rosin, which was found sticking to them, and lying about the roots. These trees shoot out their branches like all other pines, with this difference, that the branches of these are much smaller and shorter; so that the knots become nothing when the tree is wrought for use. I took notice that the largest of them had the smallest and shortest branches, and were crowned, as it were at the top, by a spreading branch like a bush " (probably occasioned by their having been formerly densely crowded, and the tallest having most liberty at the top). " This was what led some on board into the extravagant notion of their being basaltes : indeed, no one could think of finding such trees here."

There cannot be a doubt that this resemblance to columns of basalt induced the elder Forster to call this tree Cupressus columnaris, though he has fallen into an error in considering the Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria excelsa) to be the same, as we infer from his giving " Norfolk Island " as a second habitat for it ; notwithstanding that Capt. Cook, in his voyage, declared it to be different. " This " (the Norfolk Island Pine) " is a sort between that which grows in New Zealand, and that in New Caledonia ; the foliage* differing something from both, and the wood not so heavy as the former, nor so light and close-grained as the latter." —Of the New Caledonia Pine no perfect cones were found by the " philosophers " of Capt. Cook's voyage ; but a fine apex of a branch and young cone were brought home, and are preserved in the Banksian Herbarium, and figured in Mr. Lambert's splendid work, under an impression that the species was identical with that of Norfolk Island, and on the same plate with the perfect cone of the latter species. Why, under these circumstances, Mr. Lambert did not adopt Forster's name of columnaris we cannot conceive : we think it only justice to the latter author to restore it to that particular species for which it was intended, and to which it is so very appropriate ; we would otherwise gladly have adopted Mr. Brown's excellent one : — for assuredly nearly all the particulars we know of this interesting Pine are derived from the narrative of the illustrious navigator. Singular enough, as Dr. Lindley quotes from Mr. Moore's letter, " the first tree of this, noticed by Capt. Cook (in 1774) as 'elevated like a tower,' still stands (1850) and is in a flourishing condition. Its appearance now is exactly that of a well-proportioned factory chimney of great height." The species is no doubt equally tender with the Norfolk Island Pine.

Descr. Our young plants, scarcely a foot high, have exactly

* An accurate observer and traveller, Mr. Backhouse, ' Narrative of a Visit to the Australian Colonies,' says of the Norfolk Island Pine, " In figure this tree resembles the Norway Spruce, but the tiers of its branches are more distant."

the appearance of those of Araucaria Cunninghami, and are very little different from those of A. excelsa, except that this latter is more regular and uniform in its whorls of branches. The young leaves are sparse, rather distant, four lines long, subulate, broad and slightly decurrent at the base, laterally compressed, ending in a fine sharp point or muero, all these with a slightly downward curve ; whereas the adult leaves on the old branches and branchlets are densely imbricated, even to the very point of the branches; all are short and broadly ovate (fig. 1, 2,4), obtuse, concave on the upper side, with a blunt or flattened, often oblique, ridge or carina on the underside. Male cones terminal, oblong, an inch and a half long, thrice as wide as the branchlet producing them ; the scales closely imbricated (as the leaves on the branches), cordato-ovate, acute, finely denticulate, bearing at the base ten to twelve subulate-cylindrical anther-cells. Female cones on short, lateral branches, apparently generally in pairs, between ovate and elliptical, from four to five inches long, three and a half to four inches broad, formed of extremely compact imbricated, broadly ovato-cuneate coriaceous scales, membranaceous at the margins, plane or nearly so both above and beneath, the apex suddenly turning up at an angle, and there thickened, and of an olive-green colour, under a microscope seen to be studded with opake resinous dots ; this turned-up apex of the scale* is the only portion seen in the entire cone, and it suddenly contracts into a rather long, recurved, subulate, brown muero. Lodged within the disc of this scale (forming one with the scale) we find two oblong seeds. W. J. H.

Cult. It will be advisable to keep young plants of this new species in a warm greenhouse during winter. The few that have yet come under our notice appear to grow as freely as A. excelsa and Cunninghami. Light loam, mixed with a small quantity of leaf-mould, suits them ; and by timely shiftings into larger pots, and keeping the branches free from being crowded with other plants, they will in a few years form graceful trees, which may be placed out-of-doors in sheltered situations during summer. J.S.

Tab. 4635 exhibits a male branch, with antheriferous cones ; and a female branch, with fertile cones:—natural size. Fig. 1, front, and 2, back view of adult leaves :—magnified. 3. Scale from a male cone or anther :—aï-no magnified.

* In Araucaria excelsa these scales are very thick and woody, remarkably gibbous, both above and beneath ; and this structure gives quite a different character to the cone from that of A. columnaris, independent of the short and not recurved muero. The cones of A. Cunninghami are remarkable for the rich mahogany-brown colour : the scales have a very broad membranaceous wing, and there is, at the tip only, a considerable thickening both on the upper and lower side occasioning a flattened apex, from the centre of which the macro seems to spring.

Araucaria columnaris (J. R. Forst.) Hook. (accepted name)

Araucaria cookii R. Br. ex Lindl. (synonym)
Araucaria excelsa (Lamb.) R. Br. (synonym)
Araucaria intermedia R. Br. ex Vieill. (synonym)

Columbea excelsa (Lamb.) Spreng. (synonym)
Cupressus columnaris J. R. Forst. (synonym)
Dombeya excelsa Lamb. (synonym)
Eutacta cookii (R. Br. ex Lindl.) Carrière (synonym)
Eutacta cookii var. gracilis Carrière (synonym)
Eutacta excelsa (Lamb.) Link (synonym)
Eutacta humilis Carrière (synonym)
Eutacta minor Carrière (synonym)

Unambiguous Synonyms
Araucaria columnaris (Forster) Hook.
Araucaria columnaris (G. Forst.) Hook.
Araucaria columnaris Hook.
Araucaria cookii R. Br. ex Lindl.
Araucaria excelsa (Lamb.) R. Br.
Araucaria intermedia R. Br. ex Vieill.
Columbea excelsa (Lamb.) Spreng.
Cupressus columnaris J. R. Forst.
Dombeya excelsa Lamb.
Eutacta cookii (R. Br. ex Lindl.) Carrière
Eutacta cookii var. gracilis Carrière
Eutacta excelsa (Lamb.) Link
Eutacta humilis Carrière
Eutacta minor Carrière

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