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A single species of medium-sized tree endemic to temperate South America. See P. uviferum for full description.
Formerly placed within Libocedrus, the monospecific genus Pilgerodendron is endemic to temperate South America, where it has a latitudinal range covering over 1,600 km and is the southernmost occurring conifer species in the world. The greater part of its distribution is discontinuous through southern Chile, from Province Valdivia in the north to the Straits of Magellan in the South. It is far less common in Argentina, where it occurs in the Provinces of Santa Cruz, Neuquén, Río Negro and Chubut.
Within these regions, the tree may be found from sea-level to 1,000 m asl, typically in cool and moist environments, such as in the far south and in the Valdivian rainforests of central-southern Chile, or else in distinctly wet or boggy ground, as in the Cordillera de la Costa just north of Valdivia, toward the northern limit of its range where in the height of summer the ambient air temperature can be well above 30°C. In the northern half of its range, the tree often associates with Fitzroya, while in the south it is a component of evergreen forests tolerant of wet soils with components including Nothofagus betuloides and N. nitida. As a long-lived species with decay-resistant timber, it is proving useful to climate-change scientists studying the frequency of forest fires in Chile; fire-scars have been found dating back to 1570, enabling a useful chronology of fires to be prepared (Holz & Veblen 2009).
At one time this conifer was confused with Fitzroya cupressoides, to which it bears some similarity in foliage and with which it sometimes occurs in the wild. But in P. uviferum the leaves are four-ranked and tapered to the apex, while in Fitzroya they are in threes and broadest above the middle (Bean 1981a).