The Parana pine is a species of conifer belonging to the Araucariaceae family. Known scientifically as Araucaria angustifolia, the Parana pine is native to Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.
The Parana pine is also commonly known as the Candelabra tree and the Brazilian monkey puzzle tree. Its closest relatives include the Monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana), the Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) and the Cook pine (Araucaria columnaris). Although it is called a pine, the Parana pine is only very distantly related to true pine trees and other conifers belonging to the family Pinaceae.
A beautiful tree in both size and shape, the Parana pine has a distinct canopy that resembles an opened parasol. The trunk is bare three-quarters of the way up and then gives way to wide branches that can span a third to a half of the tree's height. A mature tree can be as tall as 170 feet, but most are shorter than this. The bark of the tree is dark gray and lightly scaled. The leaves are a bluish-green color, needle shaped and have sharply pointed ends. Parana pines are dioecious and possess male and female cones on separate trees. Trees that are male will only produce the male pollen cones, while female trees will only produce female cones that, when pollinated, generate seeds. The male cones are approximately 5-7 inches long and are cylindrical in shape. The female cones are egg-shaped and are much larger, with a length of 7-10 inches and a width of 5 inches. The seed of this tree is approximately 2 inches long and is edible. Seeds are eaten by wild life and humans alike.
Unfortunately, this majestic tree is under the threat of going extinct in its native range. Parana pines have a very fine timber wood, and large stands of trees were logged for most of the last century. The other threat to their survival is the harvest of their seeds, which are highly nutritious and a source of calories. A lack of mature cone-producing trees that are also stripped of the future generation of saplings leads to an uncertain future for this native South American species. Fortunately, the Parana pine has been placed on the Critically Endangered list and is now protected in certain regions by the Brazilian government. In 2001, the sale of Parana pine wood was banned, and conservation efforts are being made to keep this tree from going extinct in the wild.
Rare and special, the Parana pine will hopefully stay in existence for a while longer. Through conservation and education, the Parana pine, and others like it, will continue to grow and thrive.