Araucaria schmidii de Laub.

Araucariaceae

One of 13 species of Araucaria endemic to New Caledonia. It is restricted to the highest peak in the north of the main island of Grand Terre.

Description

Habit

A monoecious tree up to 30m tall; multi-stemmed from the base, with up to six stems, columnar in shape, d.b.h. up to 80cm when mature. Bark thick peeling in horizontal plates, producing a banded effect, grey.

Foliage

Adult leaves much longer than wide, 5.5-11 × 1.5-1.8mm, narrowly lanceolate, with an incurved bluntly acute apex, stomata in parallel rows from base to apex on upper surface, few and scattered on lower surface. Foliage densely arranged, almost adpressed.

Cones

Female seed-cones borne terminally, on very short branches, broadly ovoid, up to 9 × 6cm, glaucous when mature, bracts with a beak-like straight tip up to 15mm long, cones ripening from November to January. Male pollen-cones up to 5cm long, borne terminally in the upper part of the tree, maturing mid-February.

Key Characters

This species can be distinguished from other New Caledonian Araucaria species by its vey narrow foliage and the long, protruding bracts on the female seed-cone and by its multi-stemmed habit. It is the only Araucaria on the summit of Mt Panie although Araucaria montana occurs in small groups on the lower slopes.

Distribution

This species is restricted to a single locality covering less than 1km² on the summit and upper slopes of Mount Panié in Province Nord. Botanical surveys on surrounding massifs have not located any additional subpopulations. The total population is estimated to be considerably less than 1,000 mature trees.

Habitat and Ecology

Emergent tree on steep slopes and plateau summit within dense, humid, montane forest with very high rainfall (up to 8,000mm per year) at altitudes between 1,400 to 1,630m above sea level. This is the only New Caledonian Araucaria species that grows exclusively on nonultrabasic substrates.

Conservation Status

Global status and rationale

Vulnerable D2

The small population size, limited distribution and restricted ecological niche make this species susceptible to stochastic events that may impact individuals or the general habitat.

Global threats

Potential threats include the introduction of pathogens such as Phytopthora or freak weather events. In 2014 Agathis montana, one of the co-dominant trees of the forests on the upper slopes of Mt Pani, was listed as Critically Endangered due to significant dieback (Tron & Sabran 2014). To date, the population of Araucaria schmidii is not affected and the situation is being constantly monitored.

Conservation Actions

The entire population is located within the Mont Panié Special Botanical Reserve. This covers around 5,000ha and was declared in 1950.