Agathis dammara is a medium-large conifer up to 60 metres in height found in tropical rainforests, growing from sea level to very high mountainous regions where it becomes extremely stunted. It belongs to the southern hemisphere family Araucariaceae, widespread throughout the entire Mesozoic, emerging about 200 million years ago. An extinct genus, Protodammara (which appeared long ago, during the Mesozoic), derives its name from this tree. This tree is a source of dammar gum, also known as cat-eye resin.
When first discovered and listed as a species it was placed in the genus Pinus (Lambert, 1803), and later with Abies, (Poir 1817) the firs, and later with its own genus (Dammara). It was first recognised as being part of Agathis in 1807 when it was listed as Agathis Loranthifolia, and beyond that with species names beccarii, celebica and macrostachys, although it acquired many more names before dammara was settled on.
Agathis is a very diverse genus, although it has only 21 species. Many other Agathis are found in tropical rainforests, many even in temperate forests. Agathis atropurpurea is found in montane forests between 950–1450 metres in far northern Queensland, where rainfall could possibly exceed 18,000 millimetres in areas with no data, based on the evidence that in the cloud forest of the region the soil is so deprived of nutrients that trees cannot grow in some areas leaving only heathland and sphagnum bogs. Agathis robusta grows in tropical rainforests on sandy soils near the coast, such as at Fraser Island where it grows in subtropical rainforest although there is no soil, just sand. Agathis ovata grows between 150–1000 metres in New Caledonia, sometimes in forests, sometimes in open scrubland.
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