Fitzroya on High Close tree trail

Fitzroya

A native tree of Chile, it’s also known as the Patagonian Cypress and is the largest tree species in South America.

Latin name

Fitzroya cupressoides

Facts about the Fitzroya

A native tree of Chile, it’s also known as the Patagonian Cypress and is the largest tree species in South America. It is named in honour of Robert FitzRoy, a pioneering meteorologist and captain of the famed HMS Beagle. It’s thanks to this five year voyage with Charles Darwin that specimens like Fitzroya cupressoides bear his name, as Darwin catalogued new flora and fauna discovered along the way.

Unfortunately this species has suffered from exploitation because of its highly prized timber. Light and flexible, a single tree could yield 600 planks for export, and was so valued it came to be used as a local currency in the 1600s when it began to be intensively felled by the conquering Spanish. As well as exploitation as a timber crop, forest fires ravaged huge tracts of the Fitzroya woods of Chile, started deliberately to make space for agriculture. Logging of this species is now illegal, and it is listed as a threatened species.

This tree and several others at High Close have been planted as part of the International Conifer Conservation Programme. The programme aims to establish a network of sites to protect threatened conifer species as well as research conservation and restoration in their native habitats.