Cook Pine Tree vs. Norfolk Pine Tree: What’s the Difference?
The Norfolk Island Pine trees are often confused with their similar counterpart known as the Cook Pine tree. The Cook Pine tree is a native landmark to Hawaii and is a commonly spread species on the islands. In this article, you will learn the difference between the Norfolk Pine tree and the Cook Pine tree and the Cook Pine tree’s importance to Kauai.
The Cook Pine Tree
The scientific name for the Cook Pine tree is Araucaria columnaris. The Cook Pine tree has been reported to grow as tall as 200 ft even though usually it’s found at much smaller heights. These pine trees tend to have short, horizontal branches with a straight main trunk to hold it all together. The branches usually have more leaves and less space than Norfolk trees.
The male and female Cook Pine species produce cones, but the female species produces cones at 6 inches while the male species produces cones at about 4 inches. However, the interesting fact is that it’s harder to find female cones because by the time they fall and hit land, they shatter and spread thousands of their cone seeds across the land.
The Norfolk Pine Tree
In scientific terms, the Norfolk Pine tree is referred to as Araucaria heterophylla and is a tree that is commonly mixed up with the Cook Pine tree. This mix-up occurs because when the two species are young, they look exactly alike. However, as they get older, it’s easier to spot the differences between the two.
Norfolk Pines tend to have longer branches, less leaves, and are wider than the Cook Pine tree. Also, the female’s cones are smaller ranging from about 3 to 4 inches long, and the scales are thicker than the Cook Pine’s. When someone calls a pine tree on Kauai a Norfolk Pine tree, it’s highly likely that it’s actually a Cook Pine in disguise.
The Benefits to the Cook Pine Tree
Cook Pine trees are often planted by state foresters in order to increase lumber production and start reforestation projects. This is why there are so many of these trees throughout the island. Even 2 million board feet of the Cook Pine tree has been harvested from the islands of Hawaii and Maui. The reason for this is because the wood tends to be strong while having a light weight.
One of the unique benefits to the Cook Pine tree is that it’s used as a Christmas tree for the holidays. Often referred to as the “Hawaiian Christmas Tree,” the Cook Pine tree is set up in the houses of families every year to celebrate this special holiday!
A popular tale told in the islands is that the Cook Pine got its name from Captain James Cook, the English explorer credited with discovering the Hawaiian Islands in 1778. It was said that he brought the Cook Pine to the islands and planted as replacement masts for the sailing ships that needed repairs upon reaching the Hawaiian archipelago.
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