Monkey Puzzle Tree
The big evergreen tree on the corner of the lawn
opposite the herbaceous borders
The monkey puzzle tree is an evergreen conifer native to
Argentina and Chile. It can live for 1,000 years and grows to 50m
high with a trunk diameter of over 3m. Monkey Puzzles are known to
have existed for 200 million years and rubbed shoulders with
The common name Monkey Puzzle apparantly originates from a
comment from one of a group friends of Sir William Molesworth, the
proud owner of a young specimen his garden in
Cornwall in 1850. Someone remarked that "It would puzzle a
monkey to climb that". In the UK, the monkey puzzle became a
classic Victorian park tree.
The scientific name Araucaria araucana comes Spanish
name Araucanos, given to the Mapuche peoples from Chile who
consider monkey puzzles to be sacred.
Female trees start producing edible seeds, similiar to pine
nuts, when they are around 40 years old and have long been
harvested by the indigenous peoples in Argentina and
Chile. The nuts are used for a variety of purposes from
making flour through to making a fermented beverage -muday.
These trees have been heavily logged for over a century for
their fine knot-free timber. In 1976 they were declared 'natural
monuments' and their felling strictly prohibited. National nature
reserves were set up to protect them, but they are still under
threat, and listed as 'endangered' on the International Union for
Conservation of Nature's Global Red List of Conifers.
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