+20 rare trees that you probably do not know

No garden feels complete without trees, whether they be fruit trees, for shade, or simply ornamental. We are used to always seeing the same species and that makes us not normally notice them, but there are all kinds of rare trees that you may have even seen and overlooked.

In this article we are going to talk about the rarest trees in the world as well as about curious trees that you have surely seen once and have caught your attention.

Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis (Lemon Buddha hand)

To begin with, a fairly common one, the Buddha’s hand. Surely you have seen it many times in nurseries, but did you know that it is a variety of wild lemon tree ? The original distribution is unknown since it has been in cultivation for thousands of years. Although its main interest for us is ornamental, it is also edible and in Asia it is used for its medicinal properties.

Ficus benghalensis (Banyan or Indian Strangler Fig)

In southern Spain it is very common to grow another banyan tree, Ficus elastica, both indoors and outdoors. Ficus benghalensis, on the other hand, is usually only seen as a houseplant, although its care is almost identical. A peculiarity of this type of ficus and the reason why they are also called strangler fig trees is that they are specialized in animals eating their fruits and depositing the seeds in the crowns of other trees. Once they germinate, they grow as epiphytic plants (but not parasites, as many believe) until their roots reach the ground, at which point they begin to thicken and surround the tree in which they germinated, strangling it by not allowing it to grow.

Its other peculiarity is that as they grow they take up aerial roots that form support columns once they reach the ground. This is especially striking in Ficus benghalensis, which in its natural habitat in India, where it is considered sacred, a single specimen becomes forests. Other banyan trees, Ficus religious and Ficus altissima are also very famous since several can be seen growing on Asian ruins.

Nuytsia floribunda (Australian Christmas Tree)

We now turn to a veritable parasitic tree, the Nuytsia floribunda. It is considered indigenous to western Australia, where solitary specimens grow. A peculiarity of this plant, in addition to being the parasitic plant that can really be considered a tree, is that unlike most, instead of parasitizing a single plant, it has a large root system that hooks onto hundreds of plants. (generally herbaceous, like lawns) by haustoria, hence it can reach large sizes. It can also be said that it is hemiparasitic, that is, it only absorbs water and mineral salts from the hosts, but photosynthesis is carried out by itself.

Parasitaxus usta ( Parasitic Yew)

Continuing with the parasites we are going to see this unique plant. Parasitaxus usta is the only parasitic conifer (not counting ghost redwoods, which are a mutation and not a species as such). It is purple in color and does not have any chlorophyll, since it is a complete parasite (it absorbs everything from the host). It is only capable of growing under another member of its family ( Podocarpaceae ), Falcatifolium taxoides. But curiously, it does not bind to its roots through haustoria, but forms mycorrhizae with the same fungi with which Falcatifolium is mycorrhized, robbing them of water and nutrients. It is endemic to New Caledonia, the island of rare plants.

Retrophyllum minus

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Another conifer of the Podocarpaceae family from New Caledonia. In this case, one of the very few aquatic conifers, with extremely slow growth, myrtle-like leaves and a nearly branchless, bottled trunk. Like the rest of this family, instead of producing pineapples, it produces false fruits similar to olives.

Taxodium spp. (bald cypress)

One cannot speak of aquatic conifers without mentioning the genus Taxodium, which can not only grow within lakes but are also deciduous. It should be noted that they are single-leaved, and what they do in autumn is throw whole twigs, which makes it appear that their leaves are compound. This genus of the Cupressaceae family is indigenous to North America and has three species, two American and one Mexican:

  • Taxodium distichum, the swamp cypress, is the most widely cultivated outside of America, has yew-like twigs and a pyramidal growth. It can grow with the roots completely submerged since it forms structures called pneumatophores that allow air to reach them.
  • Taxodium ascendens, the pond cypress, is considered by many authors a subspecies of T. distichum. Its shape is very similar to the previous one, but its leaves are squamiform instead of elongated and the twigs grow completely vertical.
  • Taxodium mucronatum ( or T. huegelii), the ahuehuete, is the Mexican species and although it tolerates flooded soils, it prefers not to be directly in the water since it lacks pneumatophores. This species does a great job preventing the water from the streams from carrying away the substrate from the shore. A specimen in Oaxaca takes the record for the tree with the thickest trunk in the world.

Araucaria spp.

A genus of conifers with a very primitive appearance, of which 19 species, 13 are endemic to New Caledonia. They have a very marked apical growth with branching lateral branches usually only once, so they have a very orderly growth. Its leaves are completely attached to the stem and are usually short, flattened and sharp. In the coastal areas it is very common to see Araucaria heterophylla, and in the colder areas Araucaria araucana is the most used. In areas with cool summers it is also easy to find Araucaria angustifolia and Araucaria bidwillii. Araucaria cunninghamiana, a species similar to the typical A. heterophyllabut more resistant to cold, it is sometimes sold as bonsai. The curious thing about all this is that none of these species is from New Caledonia, the cradle of the genus. This is because the species on that island are much more tropical and delicate and are not usually worth cultivating.

Podocarpus spp.

This genus of conifers is one of the most curious, since at first glance it seems to us more that they are related to myrtles or boxwood. They have large, flattened leaves, with what appears to be a petiole. Its seeds are curious, since they are usually exposed, with a brightly colored aril at the junction to the stem. This makes them look like an olive and a berry poked on a toothpick. They are mainly tropical conifers, with only one species, Podocarpus macrophyllus, that tolerates frost well. It is not difficult to find plants of this genus in nurseries, but they are often sold as bonsai.

Dracophyllum spp.

At first glance these trees seem to be from the Bromeliaceae family, but nothing could be further from the truth. Although anyone would say that these are monocots, these rare trees actually belong to the heather and blueberry family, Ericaceae. They are in New Zealand, Australia and of course, New Caledonia. The most interesting and most sought-after species by collectors is Dracophyllum traversii, which grows into a relatively large tree and is cold tolerant. Their prehistoric appearance makes many people look for them, but they are very difficult to obtain and keep alive.

Richea pandanifolia

Another plant in the Ericaceae family that looks like a monocot. In fact, pandanifolia means from the leaves of the pandanus, an arborescent monocot relatively related to palm trees. In this case it has an exclusively vertical growth and without branches, which generates even more interest among collectors. This is endemic to high areas of Tasmania, so although it tolerates the cold, it does not support the heat. This makes it a real challenge to get it done.

Coreopsis gigantea (arboreal daisy)

More than a tree, it is a shrub because of the size it acquires (it does not usually exceed 2m), but its appearance is that of a miniature tree. The curious thing is that it is one of the few non-tropical plants of the main subfamily of the Asteraceae family that acquires arboreal size. That is, it is a seedling whose flowers are daisies. This one in particular is native to California and Baja California, and has a rather slow growth. This makes the tree daisies of the genus Sonchus endemic to the Canaries much more sought after by collector

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