Tree Hugger: The Cook pine, aka "fake cell phone tower trees"
Welcome to Tree Hugger, an occasional series about that cool tree in your neighborhood you wish you knew more about.
What's happening: Friend and fellow local journalist Rebecca Liebson wrote in asking if I could look into those trees "that literally look like the fake cell phone tower trees. Do you know what I'm talking about?"
State of play: That's one way to describe the Cook pine, University of Florida horticulturalist Alyssa Vinson told Axios.
- The evergreen are scattered all over Pinellas and south Hillsborough, poking up from the tree line with their narrow, pointy tops.
- They grow up to 80 feet tall, Vinson said — so tall, hurricane winds sometimes knock their tops off.
Zoom in: For years, I thought they were called Norfolk Island pines, which Vinson told me is a common mistake. They come from the same family and look similar, but the Cook's branches grow closer together.
How they got here: The trees are native to Australia and were brought to Florida in the 1950s as decorative plants.
The intreegue: If you've noticed Cook pines, you've probably also noticed that some appear like they're leaning to one side.
- There's a theory that the trees always grow toward the equator, but Vinson said their height and the speed at which they grow are the more likely factors for their lean.
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