Araucaria angustifolia, the Paraná pine, Brazilian pine or candelabra tree (pinheiro-do-paraná, araucária or pinheiro brasileiro), is a critically endangered species in the conifer genus Araucaria. Although the common names in various languages refer to the species as a "pine", it does not belong in the genus Pinus.
|Scientific classification |
|Section:||A. sect. Araucaria|
Origin and taxonomy
Covering an original area of 233,000 square kilometres (90,000 sq mi), it has now lost an estimated 97% of its habitat to logging, agriculture, and silviculture.
It is native to southern Brazil (also found in high-altitude areas of southern Minas Gerais and in the east and south of São Paulo, but more typically in the states of Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul). According to a study made by the Brazilian researcher Maack, the original area of occurrence represented 36.67% of the Paraná state (73,088 km2 or 28,219 sq mi), 60.13% of the Santa Catarina state (57,332 km2 or 22,136 sq mi), 21.6% of the São Paulo state (53,613 km2 or 20,700 sq mi) and 17.38% of the Rio Grande do Sul state (48,968 km2 or 18,907 sq mi). It is also found in the northeast of Argentina (Misiones and Corrientes), locally in Paraguay (Alto Paraná), growing in low mountains at altitudes of 500–1,800 metres (1,600–5,900 ft) and in northern regions of Uruguay where it was thought to be extinct until recent discoveries.
The prehistoric distribution of A. angustifolia in earlier geologic periods was very different to the present day, fossils were found in the Northeast Region, Brazil. The present day range is recent, the species moving into this area during the later Pleistocene and early Holocene. This chorological shift may possibly be due to climatic change and the migration of mountain flora by way of river courses.
It is an evergreen tree growing to 40 m (130 ft) tall and 1 m (3 ft 3 in) diameter at breast height. However, the largest individual, near Nova Petropolis, Rio Grande do Sul State, Brazil is 147.7 feet (45 meters) in height with a D.B.H. (diameter at breast height) of 12.5 feet (twelve meters girth). The leaves are thick, tough and scale like, triangular, 3–6 centimetres (1.2–2.4 in) long, 5–10 millimetres (0.2–0.4 in) broad at the base, and with razor-sharp edges and tip. They persist 10 to 15 years, so cover most of the tree except for the trunk and older branches. It is closely related to Araucaria araucana from further southwest in South America, differing most conspicuously in the narrower leaves.
It is usually dioecious, with the male and female cones on separate trees. The male (pollen) cones are oblong, 6 cm (2.4 in) long at first, expanding to 10–18 cm (4–7 in) long by 15–25 mm (0.6–1.0 in) broad at pollen release. Like all conifers it is wind pollinated. The female cones (seed), which mature in autumn about 18 months after pollination, are globose, large, 18–25 cm (7–10 in) in diameter, and hold about 100–150 seeds. The cones disintegrate at maturity to release the approximately 5 cm (2 in) long nut-like seeds, which are then dispersed by animals, notably the azure jay, Cyanocorax caeruleus.
The inner bark and resin from the trunk of the tree is reddish, which can be a good defining character because it differs from A. araucana, which has brown bark inner and white resin.
Habitat and ecology
It prefers well drained, slightly acidic soil but will tolerate almost any soil type provided drainage is good. It requires a subtropical climate with abundant rainfall, tolerating occasional frosts down to about −5 to −20 °C (23 to −4 °F).
The seeds are very important for the native animals. Several mammals and birds eat pinhão, and it has an important ecological role in Araucaria moist forests (a sub-type of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest).
In a long term study observing the feeding behaviour throughout the year of the squirrel Guerlinguetus brasiliensis ssp. ingrami in a secondary A. angustifolia forest in the Parque Recreativo Primavera in the vicinity of the city of Curitiba, Paraná, of the ten plant species of which the squirrel ate the seeds or nuts, seeds of A. angustifolia were the most important food item in the fall, with a significant percentage of their diet in the winter consisting of the seeds as well.
It is a popular garden tree in subtropical areas, planted for its unusual effect of the thick, 'reptilian' branches with a very symmetrical appearance.
The seeds, similar to large pine nuts, are edible, and are extensively harvested in southern Brazil (Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul states), an occupation particularly important for the region's small population of Native Americans (the Kaingáng and other Southern Jê). The seeds, called pinhão [piˈɲɐ̃w̃] are popular as a winter snack. The city of Lages, in Santa Catarina state, holds a popular pinhão fair, in which mulled wine and boiled Araucaria seeds are consumed. 3,400 tonnes (7,500,000 lb) of seeds are collected annually in Brazil.
The species is widely used in folk medicine.
According to one calculation it has lost an estimated 97% of its habitat to logging, agriculture, and silviculture in the last century. People also eat the seeds, which may reduce recruitment. It was therefore listed by the IUCN as 'vulnerable in 1998 and 'critically endangered' in 2008.
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