Norfolk Island Pine vs. Cook Pine

This is a series of images comparing the Araucaria heterophylla (Norfolk Island Pine) and the Araucaria columnaris (Cook Pine). I´ve been studying four different species in the Araucaria genus for about three years now. These two in particular are often mistaken one for the other and in fact I did not realize they were two tree species until I started getting a good look at them. The image above is about a half mile from my house on a historic peace of property called the "Finca of San Jose". It used to be a weathly persons large estate with a mansion but now it is an insane asylum. The original family owned a shiping company and had many exotic species of plants brought back which they planted on their estate. The reason the Cook Pine (on the right) is bent is that the top part of the tree died and a new top formed from below the dead portion. Norfolks are a lot less pointy at the top than Cooks.

The bark is one of the key differences in these two trees. The Cook pine has flaky bark that peals off in small rolls. The Norfolk only has a slight amount of flaking on a much smaller scale.

Young Norfolks are much less filled out than Cooks with more distace between the rings of branches. I´ve also notices that the branches of the cooks have more "leaves" then the Norfolks. Also Cooks almost always have a charactaristic lean and their trunk is often slightly bent. Norfolks on the other hand are very straight and upright.

I´ve noticed that the branches of the Cooks slope down and then curl up on the ends. The Norfolk tend to be straight out or sloped slightly up. The branches of the Norfolk also tend to be a lot longer than the Cooks (see the top image).

The image above shows the characteristic lean of the Cook pine.
I´ve seen similar female cones on both of these trees but much more frequently on the Norfolks.

I recently came accross the image below at...

The author had it listed as a Norfolk Pine. It looks to me more like a Cook pine however as I have seen these same "blossoms" on other Cooks.
Below is a picture that I took from a Araucaria Columnaris.


  1. Dan, you are quite right.

    After taking another close look at the trees in the light of yours and Tony's comments, it is clear that the 8 southernmost Araucarias on Whale Beach, differ from the remaining 30 or more and are A.columnaris (Cook Island pines).

    Have a look at Tony's comments in the comment I posted 15 December 2007 and the link below for further light on the subject.

    PS. Thanks for this.

  2. I just found your blog site and it has been a real eye opener. I recently posted some pictures on my blog.

    and there was a discussion in the comments on what type of pine tree we had a picture of. After checking out your site, we know we have a Norfolk Pine and the original commenter calling it a Cook Pine has retracted that.

    Thanks so much for your blog site in helping us figure this out.
    I linked your blog site in my last entry.

  3. Wow. Thank you for clarifying the differences here. I was just about to label a set of new photos on my Flickr account ("Joel Abroad") as Norfolks, but now it's clear they're Cooks. I'll have to bookmark this blog.

  4. So can I send you a photo of these trees I found on the top of Nuuanu Pali? I heard Captian Cook planted them so he could repair his ship masts as he passed by on his many trips through the "Sandwich Islands" now called Hawaii.
    These trees are similar but also different from the photos here.

    1. Just wondering where you got your information about who planted the Cook Pines on the Nuuanu Pali trail.

  5. Anonymous - I´d love to see your pics of Nuuanu Pali Norfolks. You can send them to at...
    danandeva at hotmail dot com

  6. Where can I buy a Cook and is there any chance I will get it to survive in the Atlanta GA area?

  7. It may be difficult to find a Cook pine sold as such. I am convinced that many of the small potted plants sold as "Norfolks" are in fact Cooks. There are also hybrids Norfolk-Cook and when they are young they can be very difficult to tell apart. I think that they should grow in Atlanta if you don´t get too many freezes. I´ve seen these trees for sale even in grocery stores and supermarkets. Sometimes they are incorrectly named Araucaria excelsa as well.

  8. I would like to purchase one for my place in Aransas Pass, Texas I have seen one growing there and it is very tall but I can't find them anywhere any ideas?

  9. There's research and information I posted on this site as far back as 2005.

    I now run my own site but that thread is still there with the pictures and details.

  10. Is there a place where small Cook Pines or Norfolk Island Pines can be purchased? It would be nice to plant a windbreak of these beautiful trees. Please email if you have any information regarding the purchase of seedlings. I saw them in HI and fell in love.

  11. I was recently informed that woodturners usually mistake Cook Pine for Norfolk Pine.

    While they think they are making a beautiful Norfolk pine bowls, they are actually using Cook Pine.

    Do you have any insight.

    Maui HI

  12. Marten, I think your are right that these two closely related tree species are often confused. What I don´t know is if their wood grain and density is very different. I suspect that they have very similar wood that may be very difficult to tell apart.

  13. Just wondering on how much a board foot Norfolk Pine is valued at. We have some huge pieces 20" by 20" and would like to trade for curly Koa, wondering if there is anyone in the Hawaiian Islands.
    Deborah G
    Maui, HI

  14. I fell in love with these trees on visit to Hawaii. Do you think they would grow in high desert of Ariz.? If so where can I order?

  15. I come to kauai every year and I just love the cook's pine. Does anyone know where I might could purchase one to plant on my home estate?

  16. I want to purchase a Cook Pine. How do I do that. Would want not much larger than a seedling to start with.

  17. dear dan

    i´m writing to you for advice. today we had quite a horrible shock...for a tree lover...we found that our Araucaria columnaris that we have in a pot on our terrace in barcelona, has an open "wound" around the back (where we could see it) and a little resin is coming out too...i have photos, not sure how to upload here...the tree is quite old (decades) and 5 years ago was "attacked" by an air conditioning unit...but won. the airconditioning unit has disappeared when the shop veritas moved...

    i wondered if you could have a look at the photos...if you don´t have time don´t email address is julia.robinson(at)


  18. Where do I find Cook Pines in So Cal? Norfolks are not very well suited for this climate due to cold temps. Cooks seem to do better and handle the soil types, sunlight, heat and cold from what I have seen and been told... Any help here?

  19. Aloha,

    Thanks for sorting this out. Most people here in Hawaii still refer to Cook pine as "Norfolk pine."
    Cook pine are very common and easy to find on Oahu. A really good place is at the heiau at the end of Aiea Hghts. Rd., Aiea, Oahu.

    But I don't see many Norfolk pine here. An excellent example of three Auraucaria spp. is on the island of Lanai. At the Koele Lodge, there is a huge Norfolk pine. Also, you will see Cook pine and I believe also there is a huge Hoop pine somewhere nearby. A botanist friend pointed it out to me on a visit. Very different.

    Mahalo nui loa for your kokua,

  20. Does anyone know if Cook Island Pines emit any kind of deterrent to other plants to prevent other plants growing near them? A Big Island resident would like to know.

  21. I love these trees, they are both quite common in suburban Cape Town, South Africa. I recently saw some baby trees at a local nursery, about 70cm high. They were labled Auracaria, but not sure if they were Norfolks or Cooks. How do you tell these two species apart at such a young age?

  22. Cookes pine like grow in a S shape and to fork the top in two or three branches

  23. Just dropped in on a search for Cook Pine tree, because I was unfamiliar with the species, and heard about it on a tree site elsewhere.

    heterophylla is the only one seen in Portland, unless someone has a collection, and mostly as interior.


  24. This blog is is helpful, it is unbelievable!! Thank you so very much!!!

  25. This blog was so helpful, I am searching for a Norfolk Island Pine, but I also had heard that the two (Norfolk Island Pine vs Cook Island) were very alike/similar, so I wanted to find out what the differences were, so I didn't accidentally get Cook Island instead.
    Anyways, this blog was really so helpful, I thank you so very much !!!

  26. I believe I saw the orfolk Island Pine in the Grecian Islands and the Cook Pine in Kauai.

  27. On Oahu, you can see both the pines at the Wahiawa Botanical Garden. The majority of the trees around the islands are in fact Cook Island Pine and harder to find the Norfolk which has somehow become the name synonymous with the actual Cook Island Pine used by many woodworkers here in Hawaii. My father is a carver and we do umeke's (Hawaiian wooden bowls) and papa (cooking/prep boards) as well as large urns. Perhaps I will post a few to show the beautiful grains and colors from this wonderful wood.

  28. Really cool read. Now I know why some of the "Norfolk Pines" look a little different here on the Big Island. Thanks for sharing.

    Anyone know if there is a noticeable difference in the timber from these trees?

  29. I used to live on O'ahu, and always wondered why the 'Norfolk' pines seemed so different there! LOL!