Araucaria Project

A fascinating feature of the Mantiqueira is the majestic Araucaria trees which are mainly large trees with a massive erect stem, reaching a height of 5–80 metres (16–262 ft). The horizontal, spreading branches grow in whorls and are covered with leathery or needle-like leaves. In some species, the leaves are narrow, awl-shaped and lanceolate, barely overlapping each other; in others, they are broad and flat, and overlap broadly.

The type found in the Mantiqueira is Araucaria angustifolia.  There are 32 classifications and 12 classifications are extinct and of the surviving 20, 14 are found only on the island of New Caledonia in the Pacific north of New Zealand! Only two are found in South America Araucaria araucana (Chile and Argentina) and Araucaria angustifolia in the Brazilian Mantiqueira and some other areas in Southern Brazil.  (Reference)

The trees are mostly dioecious, with male and female cones found on separate trees, though occasional individuals are monoecious or change sex with time. The female cones, usually high on the top of the tree, are globose, and vary in size among species from 7 to 25 centimetres (2.8 to 9.8 in) diameter. They contain 80–200 large edible seeds, similar to pine nuts, though larger. The male cones are smaller, 4–10 cm (1.6–3.9 in) long, and narrow to broad cylindrical, 1.5–5.0 cm (0.6–2.0 in) broad.

There is evidence to suggest that the long necks of sauropod dinosaurs may have evolved specifically to browse the foliage of the typically very tall Araucaria trees. The global distribution of vast forests of Araucaria during the Jurassic makes it likely that they were the major high energy food source for adult sauropods.

The Araucaria will be prominently used in the Green School Brazil logo due to (a) its unique relationship to the area (b) and its significance as a food providing tree (c) that is also in need of protection as a part of the inland region of the Mata Atlantica.

Green School Brazil will run an Araucaria propagation project and we plan to manage an annual Araucaria Festival in Jurema if the residents think it is a good idea;  “Festa do pinhão”. Various products and foods are made from the Araucaria trees.

The ‘pine nut’ of Araucaria is an extremely nutritious.  It is a staple food for the Mapuche Indian community of Chile, who eat it boiled or toasted. Nuts are also used to produce fermented drinks and numerous recipes such as purée, cazuela (a traditional soup), empanadas (filled pastries), sopaipillas (fritters). Pine nuts are harvested in April and May. The gatherers usually wait until the cones—which are at a height over 20 m—fall to the ground; otherwise, a rope with a stone can be used or a pole with a curved end which they use to hit the cones and make them fall. Other gatherers climb up the trees to shake the branches with cones on them so that they break off.  In the past pine nuts were eaten within families and used as a means of barter enabling the community to obtain corn and wheat, cereals which are hard to grow in this area due to the climate. At the beginning of the 19th century, serious degradation of the Araucaria araucana areas began, with trees cleared to provide open areas for livestock farming.

Medicinal properties of the Araucaria tree:  A resin obtained from incisions in the trunk is used in the treatment of ulcers and wounds.

More About the Araucaria Tree
Araucaria araucana is a large conifer – it can grow to 50 meters tall and is believed to be able to live over 1000 years – native to central and southern Chile and the Mantiqueira Mountains of Brazil. It is the national tree of Chile, and the entire Araucaria genus is extremely old, having survived for more than a hundred million years in more or less its current form. A. araucana’s English-language common name, Monkey Puzzle tree, comes from the way its branches layer and its stiff needles. Its seeds are edible and nutritious and remain an important food source for the Pehuenche tribe of the native Mapuche.

Araucaria araucana sheds its lower branches as it grows, leading to its distinctive silhouette. Outside its natural range, it is a very popular ornamental tree. Inside its natural range, previous overexploitation led to the species’ steep decline. Its IUCN Red List status is “vulnerable.”

Harvest of this species has been banned in Chile since 1976, and it is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Export of the species is strictly limited to approved specimens to be used for non-commercial purposes. No legal supply of Araucaria araucana from natural forests exists on international markets.

More reading:

Cultural Survival Magazine
Some species of the Araucaria are on the red list (threatened species)

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