“ Monkey puzzle tree is a weird looking tree, similar to the closely related bunya-bunya tree (Araucania bidwillii) and Norfolk Island pine (A. heterophylla). Monkey puzzle tree is a coniferous evergreen with evenly spaced tiers of horizontal-spreading branches arranged in regular whorls about the trunk. „
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What type of tree can't a monkey climb?
a monkey puzzle tree.
I only came across this type of tree when we bought our first property in 2004, and there is a fully grown one of these in the front garden. They grow to huge heights. Ours is as tall as our 3 bedroom semi, and we have had to prune it a couple of times since we have moved here to keep it at a controllable size.
The tree is evergreen, and always looks interesting. It has sharp segments along each branch which are very thorn like to touch. In a way, i am reminded of the outside of a pineapple when i look at it. It is great for wildlife. The birds love it, and in winter it gets covered with spiders webs which then collect the frost and look really magical.
At Christmas, i make my husband wrap coloured lights around the tree and it looks really stunning. He hates doing it, but he hasn't said no yet.
The most amusement i get from it is when the kids who live on our street play football outside our house and the ball ends up being kicked into our garden. You can see them debating about which one of them is going to be the one to brave getting it back. It makes me laugh each time.
In terms of their maintenance, they are a great tree to own as you don't have lots of old leaves to pick up. Occasionally bits drop of the end, but they pick up easily or break down. Our garden has a few prettier plants like hydrangea and fuschia in the border, and then we have gravel under this tree, so we like nice looking but not too much work in our garden. It works best with having small children.
I really like them as i think they are quite unusual. Not that many people have them or know what they are. I am quite glad it is in our front garden as i wouldn't want my children playing near it as they might run into it by accident while playing, but out the front it looks great.
Messy tree. Saw my first one in mid 80's when I moved to the Pacific NW and was mistified. Someone else wrote "exotic" and that's what I've thought too...until recently. A few yrs back I purchased an old house on large lot w/ mature landscaping and on this property is such a tree & it's huge! (60ft?) I finally had an oportunity to pet (touch) a tail and OUCH! Each time I walk under the tree I think I should wear a helmet and offer one to my visitors as a safety precaution. Each wind storm scatters the seeds (monkey balls) throughout the yard. The yard is speckled with them as I type this. The seeds are pokey too, but not as bad (needle sharp) as the tails are. The seeds fall apart rather quickly and become compost for the yard. There is no bare foot'n allowed anywhere at any time in the summer here. The dog and cat do not seem to mind though. My biggest concern has been that it will topple over onto the house. An expert told me the roots are as deep as the tree is tall and that it's unlikely to happen. There's a splash of shasta daisies that mature every June undernieth the tree and both plants appear to be very happy to coexist together. The tree makes a great conversation piece. I like to offer all my curious guests a pet..."Go ahead, pet the tree, I dare you!" The more tactile guests doo... and it makes for a good laugh.
I have just returned from Lanzarote and was admiring the trees there, so I bought a seed and brought it back. I found this while looking for info on growing the trees, so thanks for the info - wish me luck!
The first memory I had of Monkey Puzzle trees was as a toddler, playing beside one in my great-grandmother's front garden in the heart of Edinburgh. Looking back, it was an incredibly strange place to find a Monkey Puzzle tree - an exotic, orphaned misfit amidst a row of run-down terraced houses and melodious rose gardens.
Unfortunately no-one in my family claimed to know how it got there so in my teens I decided to do some investigating of my own. I discovered that the first Monkey Puzzle trees in Edinburgh were planted en-masse in Lauriston Gardens in 1843, around 40 years after their introduction into Britain. From this, I could only conclude, knowing the "resourcefulness" of mum's side of the family, that someone had "borrowed" some seeds or off-cuts from Lauriston and planted them in my great-gran's garden. The tree was in its mature phase when I first met it, so at a guess, it was probably planted in the early 1900s.
Having such fond memories of this first tree, it's safe to say I have a developed a healthy obsession with them over the years.
The monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) is an evergreen conifer and indigenous to the Andes mountain range spanning Argentina and Chile. It is also thought to be the closest living relative to the trees from the Carboniferous period which occurred 280 million years ago. The Pehuenche Indians, native to Chile, have long believed that the Monkey Puzzle is sacred, and their seeds form the basis of their diet to this day.
Studies on pre-Ice Age pollen fossils show that these trees were once native to the British Isles, making this amazing species at least 60 million years old. It was Scots botanist, by Archibald Menzies who re-introduced the tree back into the UK, in 1795, after Kew Gardens commissioned him to take part in a scientific study of plants in Chile.
According to reports, he was served the Araucaria araucana seeds as a dessert, at a dinner held by the Governor of Chile. He pocketed a few of the strange looking seeds and later sowed them in pots on the deck of Cook's ship - the Discovery, on the return voyage to England. Upon his return, Menzies had 5 healthy plants, one of which was planted in Kew, another in his Perthshire home and the others were kept for research.
There is no one definitive answer to the question of how Araucaria araucana came to be known as the Monkey Puzzle tree. Some say it is because the branches are shaped like monkey tails, whilst others claim it came from a comment by one of Menzie's colleagues who thought the tree would be a puzzle for a monkey to climb. The former story seems more likely than the latter though, since there are no primates native to the foothills of the Andes, or indeed the UK.
BATTLES OF THE SEXES
The Monkey Puzzle is "dioecious". This means that there are both male and female specimens of the tree. Both are required for the production of sowable seeds. On rare occasions some trees have both male and female cones, but these are few and far between in the UK. The difference between the sexes is quite easy to deduce. The female tree produces big, round cones (up to 12 cm long) and the male tree produces long, thin cones. The female cones generally take 2 years to reach maturity and they each contain around 200 seeds. However, without a male around, the seeds of the female are completely hollow and can not be re-planted.
LOOK AND FEEL
The Monkey Puzzle tree forms a symmetrical, triangular shape in its youth with the lower branches sweeping the ground, but as it matures, the lower branches fall off and are not replaced. Eventually, as the tree grows taller, the branches flatten out and form a more rounded crown shape. The deep green coloured leaves that form each branch have very sharp points and feel leathery and stiff to the touch. The density of these leaves along the branch increases the higher up the tree they are.
GROWING YOUR OWN
You can buy Monkey Puzzle tree seeds on the internet easily these days so you don't have to wait for your trees to mate! Although the plants are tolerant of the cold, the root systems of the seedling are very fragile and will die in prolonged periods of cold weather. For this reason, it's recommended that you don't sow your seeds until late February, when the weather starts to get warmer.
The seeds should be planted in a seed starting mix. They should not be buried, but rather, have at least half the seed sticking out in the air and keep the mixture slightly moist to the touch throughout germination.
Germination takes up to 2 months and the temperature should be kept at around 15°c. A few of my seeds took up to 4 months to sprout, so don't give up on them if nothing happens in the first couple of months.
As soon as the seedlings are large enough to handle, carefully replant them into separate pots. As mentioned before, the root system is very delicate so consequently the seedlings don't like a lot of movement. So, once planted, do not uproot them again for at least a year.
The Monkey Puzzle is a slow starter but the rewards are great. It can take 5 years for the tree to grow its first 5 cm but after that there's no stopping it and a healthy tree will normally grow a foot per year - particularly in the summer months.
Pruning the tree is not for the faint-hearted. I'd recommend getting a specialist tree surgeon in to do the job as the branches are incredibly sharp and spikey. If you do take on the job yourself, you'll need an extra thick pair of gardening gloves and goggles. Only the dead branches should be removed (the brown ones) annually and don't worry if you have a lot of these, it doesn't mean your tree is dying. Money Puzzle trees can shed hundreds of branches over the year. The branches can also be removed at any time of the year without causing it any harm. Pruning is good for the tree as it this allows the younger, healthy branches a chance to reach for the sunlight.
Monkey Puzzles are made of stern stuff so if for any reason you find you have to remove green branches - for example: if they are over-hanging into a neighbour's garden, they can be be trimmed anywhere along the branch without having an adverse effect on the tree's health.
Unfortunately, the monkey puzzle tree may be headed for extinction in its native lands. With a rapidly changing global climate, thousands of acres of Monkey Puzzle forests in Chile have been destroyed by fire in the last 5 years. It's up to us to help save this ancient tree.
Araucariaceae (Chile Pine family)
Small, with yellow petals
Monkey Puzzles like just about any soil apart from very dry and hot soils. They don't like being water-logged either so ensure there is good drainage. The base of the tree should not be covered by other plants or decorative stones as this effects the temperature of the roots. Despite being a native of volcanic soils, it thrives in the UK particularly on the coast where winds are salt winds.
-10°C, though not for extended periods of time
Up to 70 feet tall and 35 feet wide
If you can't be bothered ringing around your local garden centres then believe it or not, Ebay is the easiest and cheapest way of buy Monkey Puzzles. Sellers offer a range of options from seeds (approx £5) to young trees (£10 - £100). And if you do decide to go for it, good luck! Spread the monkey puzzle love!