Scientific name: Retrophyllum rospigliosii
Plant type: Evergreen tree
Environment: Full sun, with fertile soil with slow drainage
Uses: Specimen plant
Retrophyllum rospigliosii (Pilg.) C.N.Page, is a large evergreen tree and a member of the Podocarpaceae family. This species of Retrophyllum is native to the montane tropics of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela.
Retrophyllum rospigliosii was first described in the early twentieth century, though at the time it was included in the genus Podocarpus. The specific epithet rospigliosii was given in honor of Dr. Carlos Rospigliosi Vigil, the first director of the Museo de Historia Natural in Lima, Peru. Rospigliosi sent samples of this newly found plant to Robert Pilger, a German botanist who eventually described the new species. The species has a number of common names including pino hayuelo, pino romerón, and romerillo macho.
In its native range pino hayuelo can most commonly be found at elevations from 1,500 m to 3,500 m. In Colombia and Peru, however, it can also be found in cloud forests up to 3,750 m. R. rospigliosii plays an ecological role in these regions. Its seeds are a food source for the endangered yellow-eared parrot (Ognorhynchus icterotis) in Colombia. The tree is also host to multiple beetle species and several fungi species. There are also human uses of Retrophyllum rospigliosii. It is used extensively in construction, in addition to woodworking, furniture making, and horticulture.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List classifies Retrophyllum rospigliosii as Vulnerable. The IUCN Red List is a source on the conservation status of species around the world. R. rospigliosii has been under pressure throughout its native range for many years due to its popularity as a source of timber. In areas where dense stands of the pino hayuelo once stood, it is more common today to see scattered individuals throughout its native range. Occasionally, in areas that have been cleared for cattle, mature specimens are left standing to provide shade for the animals. These native populations are expected to continue to decline, despite the species presence in national parks due to the popularity of Podocarpaceae wood and widespread illegal logging.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS: Text by Victoria Stewart. Photos by Saxon Holt.