Norfolk Island Pine: Araucaria heterophylla and Cook Pine: Araucaria columnaris, are both in the Araucariaceae family. These evergreens are common throughout the Hawaiian Islands as an introduced species. The smaller sizes are often used as Christmas trees during the holidays. Norfolk Island Pine (NIP) is a more familiar name than Cook Pine (CP) and is often called just Norfolk Pine. Recycling wood from these trees is a win-win situation. Something useful can be made from the wood and the tree trimmer can save on tipping fees as fees are determined by weight. Our club sends out an email “Wood Alert” whenever a tree is cut down and made available for recycling. There is an alert sent out on NIP and CP at least once a month, and sometimes more often. CP can usually be distinguished from NIP by the way the pine needle growth tends to be more towards the end of the branches. Of course, what makes these pines interesting is that the branches are around the trunk at the basically the same level on different ranks. The number of branches on each rank can differ from 4 branches up to 9 branches, but towards the bottom of the trunk, there tends to be a smaller number, because the branches will crowd each other out as the tree matures. The branches will go to the center of the trunk, which will account for a star-shaped pattern if the trunk is cut just in the right place and intercepts the branches in the walls of a bowl form. Alternately, the branches if cut high up in the form will be ovals of darker, harder wood, or knots. When freshly cut, the wood will exhibit a creamy, golden color, sometimes with darker specks sprinkled throughout. Left out in the weather, the wood will spalt and develop a stain in as little as a week, but often in one or two months or more. How quickly this happens is attributed to how often it rains and the stains follow the grain lines from the cut edges inward. With regard to translucence, light will not transmit through the dark stain from spalting, nor through the stains that sometime occur in the center of the trunk area.
Because NIP is the more familiar name, many of the trees are identified as NIP, although in reality they are CP. In my experience, the majority of the trees in these islands are CP. Once cut and the branches are removed, however, it is almost impossible to tell the difference between the two. The bark on the CP tends to be more flaky than the NIP, but a side-by side comparison is often not reliable.
The tree on the right is obviously Cook Pine. On the left, however, it is difficult to tell. If it is Norfolk Pine, it is perhaps the only one of perhaps 25 pine trees in this condominium development that are Cook Pine.
The photo above is a close-up of what appears to be Norfolk Island Pine branches. The needles on the branches tend to stick up directly from the branches and the needles tend to be more full on the branch.
On the Cook Island Pine, the needles tend to stick up in clusters; more like a branchlet on the branches. The needles tend to be towards the end of the branch, often leaving the branch bare except for the cluster of needles at the ends of the branches.
Update: May 2012
A short while ago, I learned of a new way to tell the Cook and Norfolk varieties apart. I have subsequently tried to take notice of the trees, and the “rules” seem to be a valid method. Focus on the tops of the trees. The Cook Pine will have a bushy tip, with branches with needles tapering to the very top. The Norfolk Island Pine will have a thin singular spine with the branches near the top in a cross or cruciform pattern. Looking for examples of this, observe the following photo:
Using the identifying criteria for the tree tops, the tree on the left is a Cook Island Pine, and the tree on the right is a Norfolk Island Pine. When the trees are going through seasonal growth spurts at the top of the trees, which is at the beginning months of the year in Hawaii, all trees tend to look like Norfolk until the new growth matures and develops either a bushy top or a more cruciform pattern.
This is one of my first translucent bowls, made in 2003. The major difference between the early examples and those made now is better equipment (Nova 3000 vs. Vicmarc VL300), sharper tools, experience and time to execute. This bowl I think took the better part of two days to finish just the turning. Before all I got from turning was sawdust. Now long streams of ribbons are possible for most of the 2-3 hours it takes to turn a piece. It was on my first video that Del Stubbs explained the principle of cutting with and against the grain.
Note on the photos: Most of these are taken in a darkened room. The camera is set on a tripod with a self-timer on auto focus and auto exposure. A light source is held above the piece out of the field of the photo and the self-timer is activated. Exposure can be 3 to 4 seconds.