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Mr. Smarty Plants - What are the pines growing at South Padre Island, Texas

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Sunday - November 20, 2011

From: Wimberley, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Trees
Title: What are the pines growing at South Padre Island, Texas
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hi, On a recent trip to South Padre Island, we noticed a large number of beautiful long leaf pines. I asked several residents what the name was but no one knew. I have searched and googled trying to identify this tree, to no avail. I'm wondering if you know what it is and if so, will it grow in Wimberley TX.

ANSWER:

The USDA Plants Database shows no Pinus sp. (pines) growing naturally in Cameron, Kenedy, Kleberg, Nueces and Willacy Counties (the counties included in South Padre Island).   That doesn't mean that someone might not have planted pines at their business or home, but I suspect what you saw was not a true pine.  Searching on the internet I found a reference to Norfolk pines on South Padre Island.  I suspect that is what you were seeing— Araucaria heterophylla (Norfolk pine) or the related, Araucaria columnaris (Cook Island pine), both native to South Pacific islands.  If one of these is what you were seeing, it is not likely to thrive in Wimberley outdoors since they are considered tropical and sub-tropical species.  The recommended USDA Hardiness Zones are 10-11 for Norfolk pine and zones 9-11 for Cook Island pine; whereas, Wimberley is in Zone 8.   They are often sold as indoor plants and here is one version of how to care for an indoor Norfolk pine.

Additionally, we wouldn't recommend planting this tree outdoors in Wimberley because it is not native to North America and:

"The mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes."

 

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