Norfolk-Island-pine is one of the best known and most easily recognized trees in the V.I. and south Florida. It is an attractive tree, recognized by its: (1) distinct form, usually with a single straight trunk; (2) whorls of nearly horizontal branches; and (3) slender twigs arranged in a horizontal plane and covered with small dark green leaves. A native of tiny Norfolk Island in the South Pacific, it has been planted in tropical areas around the world for its beauty and is grown widely as a house plant. This striking tree is readily located on all of the major Virgin Islands and in south Florida, although it is not particularly abundant.
Form. The whorls of 4–7 horizontal branches have many slender ropelike twigs arranged in “Vs”. In the V.I. and south Florida, the tree seldom exceeds 75 ft. (23 m) in height and 24 in. (61 cm) in trunk diameter. However, in environments similar to that of its native habitat it can reach 200 ft. (61 m) tall and over 36 in. (91 cm) in diameter.
Leaves. The alternate, needle like leaves are of two types. Young ones are 0.25–0.5 in. (0.6–1.3 cm) long, occurring in spirals around the twigs. Older leaves are broader, small, scalelike needles and are crowded around the twigs. Twigs with attached leaves fall together when several years old.
Flowers. The inconspicuous flowers appear in the spring.
Fruits. Norfolk-Island-pine is a conifer (cone-bearing gymnosperm). It rarely reproduces in the V.I. or Florida. Where it does reproduce it has male cones that are oblong, 1.5–2 in. (3.8–5 cm) long, and, on separate trees, female cones that are more rounded and longer (4–5 in., 10–13 cm). Cones are green. Seeds are triangular and winged, about 1.25 in. (3.2 cm) on a side and flat.
Habitat. Araucaria heterophylla is a hardy plant, growing in a variety of soil types. It is tolerant of salt and is planted near beaches. It also has high drought-tolerance, but is not resistant to high wind.