The Parana Pine (Araucaria angustifolia) is a critically endangered Brazilian conifer tree, though not a true pine. It is also known as the Brazilian Monkey Puzzle Tree and Candelabra Tree, or simply the Brazilian Pine. It is one of many trees that have become endangered from non-sustainable commercial logging. It was logged for its high quality wood, as well as nutritious fruit. Its softwood was popular in interior woodworking and is a light reddish-brown color. It is known for taking paint well and as being easily glued and worked with. In the past it had a widespread range throughout Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, but now its range is limited to relic populations in the Brazilian state of Parana, most notably the subtropical areas near General Carniero and Biturna. In the twentieth century alone the Parana Pine has lost around ninety-seven percent of its range.
Parana Pines reach around thirty meters (100 feet) in height. Branches form in a circle around the trunk and as the trees age the lower branches fall off, which leaves a tall bare trunk. Branches remain at the top in a crown with a tufted appearance, making it naturally ornamental. The leaves are dark green and needle-like. The fruits are large, brown cones with scales protecting seeds that resemble large pine nuts. Local people have eaten the seeds for centuries.
As a dioecious species, the male and female flowers of the Parana Pine grow on separate plants. Similar to conifers, they produce pollen between August and October. Trees do not even begin to produce pollen until they are 12 to 15 years old. Pollen dispersion to other trees is caused by wind. Cones form two years after pollination, and the cones drop between May and August. Female trees bear larger fruit than male trees. The seeds contained in the cones are then dispersed again by animals like birds and small rodents. Very few of the remaining trees have been producing fruit, which is further contributing to the decline of the already endangered species.
Efforts have been made to reintroduce the Parana Pine to areas in South America, but it has been unsuccessful because it cannot compete with other pines and eucalyptus species. The habitat of the trees is also being encroached upon by agricultural crops like wheat, soy and corn. Brazil banned the logging and exportation of the trees in 2001 in an attempt to save the species. The government also took measures to create protected areas to conserve the remaining trees. Seed-collecting initiatives have been instituted to aid in genetic diversity and hopefully help remaining trees to bear fruit again and get the population back to viability.