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Tom Christian (2018)
Christian, T. (2018), 'Araucaria angustifolia × araucana' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.
A hybrid between Araucaria angustifolia and A. araucana probably first arose in a plantation forestry environment in Argentina sometime in the late 19th or early 20th century. Occasional speculation that it could have occurred ‘in the wild’ is simply false: the natural ranges of the parent species are separated by a distance of c. 1,000 km.
The confusion is perhaps a result of the natural occurrence of both species in Argentina, albeit that A. araucana occurs in a narrow area of the Andes and A. angustifolia in an equally narrow area of the extreme north-east of the country, close to the borders with Paraguay and Brazil (Thomas 2016). Furthermore, A. angustifolia is grown as an ornamental in Chile where it can be seen in parks in towns and cities, particularly those in the central valley and near the coast between Santiago and Valdivia (pers. obs.). Its use in these locations is understandable given the innate desire to cultivate one of the nation’s most famous trees, but finding their native A. araucana poorly suited to the intense summer heat of lower elevations, Chilean nurserymen have turned to A. angustifolia. Both species may be seen growing side by side in some locations, such as in the town of Melipeuco, just to the south of Chile’s Conguillío National Park which is home to a significant population of A. araucana (pers. obs. 2019).
The hybrid is cultivated at the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, NC, USA (JC Raulston Arboretum 2018) and has been offered for sale by a nursery in the same area, which obtained seed from Argentina and bred it themselves (Plant Delights Nursery Inc. 2018). It is also in cultivation in Europe, at the RHS Wisley garden in Surrey, UK, where there is a plant that was sourced from the Madrona nursery, Kent, in 2014, and another that was planted in 2012 but has since died (J. Armitage pers. comm. 2018).
A young tree of unknown origin growing at Bicton Park Botanical Gardens, Devon, is possibly the progeny of a hybrid which back-crossed with A. araucana (pers. obs.). Back-crosses are an added layer of confusion which cannot be ruled out, except in instances of controlled pollination when meticulous notes should have been kept regarding provenance, pollination and propagation.