Confusion abounds with respect to nomenclature of conifers. In the pine family we have Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii, which is neither a true fir (genus Abies) nor hemlock, as its genus name implies – “Pseudo” meaning false, and “tsuga,” hemlock. Then there is western redcedar, Thuja plicata, which is not a cedar (genus Cedrus, within the pine family) but a type of arborvitae, cypress family, Cupressaceae.
Huon pine, Lagarostrobos franklinii (syn. Dacrydium franklinii), is a confusing conifer not as widely known as the examples above. You guessed it, not a pine (family Pinaceae) at all. This Tasmanian endemic is a member of the podocarp family, Podocarpaceae, the sole species within its genus.
I first saw this tree in a greenhouse during my new years visit to Forestfarm.
Portlanders don’t have to travel to Forestfarm, a nursery in Southern Oregon, to see one. This broadly spreading front yard tree can be admired from the sidewalk on NE 33rd Avenue, between Siskiyou and Morris.
Wikipedia tells us this rare tree is slow growing (6 to 8 feet tall in 10 years) but long lived, eventually to 30 feet tall or more. In its native habitat, some are estimated to be over 2,000 yeard old. Huon pine is a riparian species, occuring in rainforests and is named for a river where it occurs. The wood is a valued specialty timber source.
Considering its slow growth, I wonder how old this tree could be? The trunk is sizable. I didn’t take time to estimate height, but I would say it’s over 15 feet tall, maybe even 20 feet.
The scale-like leaves are spirally arranged and very small. Both the leaf arrangement and the overall branching habit are decurrent, producing a broad, lacy curtain of foliage.
The cones are tiny and delicate too.
I hope to discover more specimens of this unique tree.
Forestfarm lists this tree as hardy to USDA Zone 8, 10 degrees F. The Desert Northwest has this to say about cultural requirements: It appreciates a moist, well-drained site in sun or partial shade, and is most at home in a maritime climate such as the Pacific Northwest. Hardier than a lot of other plants from Tasmania, it can handle temperatures down to about the 10 – 12°F range in the Pacific Northwest.
For further information on this tree, see this Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service file.