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Embothrium coccineum

Chilean firetree, Chilean firebush, Notro or Ciruelillo in Spanish (Embothrium coccineum), is a small evergreen tree in the family Proteaceae. It grows in the temperate forests of Chile and Argentina.

It produces deep red flowers (occasionally pale yellow) which group in clusters; blooming occurs in spring. The fruit is a dry follicle, with about 10 seeds inside.

Scene carved on a piece of "Notro" wood

It grows 4–15 m (13–50 ft) tall and can reach 50 cm (20 in) in diameter. The bark is dark grey with light spots. Its wood is light pink in color, and being very soft but durable, is used for spoons, kitchen vessels and another craft articles.

It is grown as an ornamental in Great Britain and the United States, and as far north as the Faroe Islands at 62° North latitude.

The plant was introduced to Europe by William Lobb during his plant collecting expedition to the Valdivian temperate rain forests in 1845–1848. It was described by Kew Gardens as:

"Perhaps no tree cultivated in the open air in the British Isles gives so striking and brilliant a display as this does."[1]

It is pollinated by both hummingbirds and insects in its natural range.[2]

Chilean firetree

Special attribute[edit]

In 2013, researchers reported their findings that E. coccineum has the unique ability to access normally inaccessible forms of various nutrients, especially phosphorus. It does this by creating a dense root mass called cluster roots when in its seedling stage. These cluster roots exude acidic substances which are able to transmute the otherwise inaccessible forms of nutrients into forms that are biologically useful. These nutrients are then made available to other plants from the leaf litter of E. coccineum, making it a valuable keystone plant in certain terrains.[3]


  1. ^ Quoted in Sue Shephard (2003). Seeds of Fortune - A Gardening Dynasty. Bloomsbury. p. 100. ISBN 0-7475-6066-8. 
  2. ^ Devoto, M., N. H. Montaldo & D. Medan, 2006. Mixed hummingbird: Long-proboscid-fly pollination in ‘ornithophilous’ Embothrium coccineum (Proteaceae) along a rainfall gradient in Patagonia, Argentina. Austral Ecology, 31: 512–519
  3. ^ Piper, Frida I., Gabriela Baez, Alejandra Zúñiga-Feest, and Alex Fajardo. 2013. Soil nitrogen, and not phosphorus, promotes cluster-root formation in a South American Proteaceae, Embothrium coccineum. American Journal of Botany 100:2328-2338. doi:10.3732/ajb.1300163 Reported at Eurekalert, January 23, 2014
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