Pilgerodendron is a genus of conifer belonging to the cypress family Cupressaceae. It has only one species, Pilgerodendron uviferum, and is endemic to the Valdivian temperate rain forests and Magellanic subpolar forests of southern Chile and southwestern Argentina. It grows from 40 to 55°S in Tierra del Fuego, where it is the southernmost conifer in the world. It is a member of subfamily Callitroideae, a group of distinct southern hemisphere genera associated with the Antarctic flora.
It is very closely related to the New Zealand and New Caledonian genus Libocedrus, and many botanists treat it within this genus, as Libocedrus uvifera (D.Don) Pilg. It is also a taxonomical synonym for Libocedrus tetragona (Hooker). It is known locally as ciprés de las Guaitecas, (after the Guaitecas Archipelago) and elsewhere by its scientific name, as pilgerodendron. The genus is named after Robert Knud Friedrich Pilger.
It is a slow-growing, narrowly conical evergreen tree that grows from 2–20 m in height (with taller trees existing formerly), with a trunk up to 1.5 m diameter (reported to 3 m diameter in the past). The leaves are scale-like, arranged in decussate pairs. The leaves are equal in size, giving the shoots a square cross-section (unlike the Libocedrus species, where pairs of larger leaves alternate with pairs of smaller leaves, giving a somewhat flattened shoot). The seed cones are 5–12 mm long and 4–6 mm broad, with four scales, two sterile basal scales and two fertile scales; each scale has a slender spine-like bract, and each fertile scale has two winged seeds 3–4 mm long. The pollen cones are 5–10 mm long and 2 mm broad, with 12–20 scales.
It is found in the evergreen coastal lowland forests along the Pacific coast of the ecoregion, in association with the broadleaf evergreens Nothofagus betuloides and Drimys winteri. It is also found in open stands in sheltered bogs farther inland, where it is often locally dominant, and ranges as far as the eastern slopes of the Andes in southwestern Argentina. At the northern end of its range it is found in association with Fitzroya cupressoides. It has been planted in the north coast of the Pacific Coast of the United States.
At present much Pilgerodendron uvifera grow in the Andes and in the Chilean Coast Range. However, during the interstadials of Last glacial period Pilgerodendron uvifera grew in lowland areas such as the Central Valley where it is absent at present. Remaining lowland populations are thought to be relicts that have survived the warmer climate of the Holocene.
The wood is yellow-reddish, very decay resistant, it has a distinct spicy-resinous smell; it is very valuable, used for building construction. Due to over-exploitation, the species is now much scarcer than formerly, and is listed under CITES Appendix I; export of the wood is prohibited under this listing. The species is considered threatened by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Much of its original lowland habitat has been cleared.
Historically the wood has been used to make railway sleepers. In the 1860s and 1860s Felipe Westhoff was one of various businessmen who exported Pilgerodendron uvifera north to Chilean and Peruvian ports. Westhoff, who was based in Ancud, came initially as an agent of Ferrocarril Central Andino in Peru to purchase sleepers but soon became an independent businessman.
The town of Melinka was established in 1860 during the Pilgerodendron boom. This was the first permanent settlement in Guaitecas Archipelago. After Westhoff's retirement in the 1870s, Ciriaco Álvarez, a native from Chonchi, rose as the most prominent Pilgerodendron uviferum businessman in the area, being dubbed "The King of Pilgerodendron" (Spanish: El Rey del Ciprés).
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- "Pilgerodendron". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
- Farjon, A. (2005). Monograph of Cupressaceae and Sciadopitys. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. ISBN 1-84246-068-4
- Flora Chilena: Pilgerodendron uviferum
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- Pilgerodendron uviferum
- Chilebosque: Pilgerodendron uviferum
- "Nothofagus antarctica in Washington Park Arboretum" (PDF). Seattle Government. Retrieved 2009-06-27.
- Villagrán, Carolina; Leon, Ana; Roig, Fidel A. (2004). "Paleodistribution of the alerce and cypres of the Guaitecas during the interstadial stages of the Llanquihue Glaciation: Llanquihue and Chiloé provinces, Los Lagos Region, Chile". Revista geológica de Chile. 31 (1): 133–151. Retrieved 13 November 2015.
- Conifer Specialist Group (2000). "Pilgerodendron uviferum". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2006. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 5 May 2006. Listed as Vulnerable (VU A2cd v2.3)
- "¿Quién era Felipe Westhoff Rodhius?". eldivisadero.cl (in Spanish). Diario El Divisadero. July 28, 2012. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
- Morales B., Diego (2014). "El negocio de la madera: comerciantes y "hacheros" de Chiloé, 1850-1875" [Timber business: woodcutters and merchants of Chiloé, 1850-1875]. Magallania (in Spanish). 42 (2). doi:10.4067/S0718-22442014000200003. Retrieved January 10, 2019.