Tree Profiles Moreton Bay Pine

The Moreton Bay Pine (Araucaria cunninghamii), Hoop Pine, or Colonial Pine is a large evergreen conifer reaching about 60 meters (200 feet) in height. It is native to Australia, found mainly in coastal rainforest regions of northern New South Wales to northern Queensland, as well as the Arfak Mountains of New Guinea. It is named after the province of Arauco in Chile and after Alan Cunningham, a 19th-century explorer and botanist. They can live for up to 450 years, but due to the lumber industry most of the original forests have been depleted. Despite their heavy commercial use, they are not a threatened species.

Moreton Bay Pines have a straight trunk with rough bark covered with circular markings, which give it its more common name, Hoop Pine. It is a relatively symmetrical tree without large branches, instead having smaller branchlets occurring in clusters and covered in leaves. The bark of the trunk comes off easily, and the trunk exudes sap that has been used for centuries by the aboriginal people as a type of cementing substance. The leaves of the trees are dark green and simple, along the branchlets, consisting of around six whorls. On juvenile trees the leaves are more needle-like and they thicken as the trees age. Male trees produce fruit in the form of cylindrical cones, while female fruits are ovoid. The cones are composed of winged samara-like scales and are green at first, then turn brown as they mature. The seeds shed in the summer, and seeds are a food source for birds like cockatoos. In the wild, saplings often sprout up around the bases of the mature trees, rather than being carried by wind like other trees.

Moreton Bay Pines are hardy and easily cultivated in areas that are not tropical or subtropical in climate, despite being native to the rainforest. It is a fast-growing tree that will adapt to a variety of soil types. The timber of this pine is used widely for building and furniture, as well as broom handles, piano cases, and masts and booms of sailboats. As a result it is widely grown on plantations for the sole purpose of the timber industry. When Moreton Bay Pines are young they make nice container plants that can be kept indoors or out. Commercially and for personal use they are propagated by seed or cuttings. For cuttings to be workable, they must be taken from upright growing shoots; side shoots will result in trees that are crooked and less appealing aesthetically.