14 March 2010

Mystery tree

I'm trying to find out the proper name of this unusual tree that is growing alongside my studio. For years I referred to it as the 'monkey puzzle' tree – a name a visitor once gave it. But I know it's not a genuine monkey puzzle, which is a conifer native to South America with 'needles' much more like those of the bunya pine to which it's apparently related.

This tree is more tropical or maybe cactus-like, with long twiggy branchlets (rather than leaves) that are firm but fleshy and drip a sticky white liquid when damaged or broken off. It's growing in a rather difficult spot, partly shaded by several tall trees on its eastern and northern sides (a silky oak, a bunya pine, and several other good-sized trees). And whoever originally planted it placed it too near a pandanus and a mango, both of which get more light, but the three trees are all doing remarkably well even though their branches are intermingled. The mango bore prolifically this year (what mango didn't!) and the pandanus is setting down supporting 'feet' amongst the tangled growth of all three trees.

Here's a close-up of the little branchlets that cover the mystery tree, obviously doing the job of leaves. And the large branch below is actually growing horizontally, taking a direct route through the pandanus and mango toward the precious northern sun. I've never noticed any flowers or fruit of any kind on the tree. And something about it makes me think it might be related to a rubber tree.


Anonymous said...


Chartreuse said...

Well there are 2000 different types of euphorbias, but with that hint I did find one - pencil cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli)- which might be it. I had remembered 'pencil pine' (which clearly it isn't) but maybe the 'pencil' part was right after all.

Anonymous said...

And yes, now that you mention it, our euphorbia was called a Pencil "Cactus". I'd forgotten that. It got to be about 3 feet tall, and we called it "Rudolph", because of the antler-like growth, and no leaves. It was actually a succulent and not a real cactus and I think it exuded a milky juice when branches are broken...toxic supposedly, if I remember. I think it was one possession I really hated giving up when we left. We'd brought it, hanging and swaying back and forth in our van, when we moved from New Orleans to New Mexico. And after staying at a friend's somewhere overnight on the trip, we turned around and drove the 100 miles back to her place to pick up "Rudolph", because we'd forgotten we'd put him inside at her place for the night!

Chartreuse said...

OK, well in honour of your long-lost plant, mine will henceforth be known as Rudolph 2, or maybe Rudolph Redux, à la the 2nd novel in Updike's Rabbit series in which Rabbit Angstrom is "10 years older, fatter, softer and settled in". That surely applies to my 2-storey euphorbia, which wouldn't fit in a schoolbus, let alone in a van! (I have a weird feeling we've had this conversation before!)

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I started this blog in 2009 when I became a full-time caregiver. My husband had been diagnosed a few years earlier with primary progressive aphasia. Over the next four years until his death in 2013, we went on a journey of discovery about this rare condition. My blog is about what I learned, how we both coped and how the journey deepened our love and appreciation of each other. Allen’s journey is over, but mine goes on.