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Watch Those Monkeys or they?ll Pinch your Nuts!
Member Name: Foxy-Lady
Date: 11/04/03, updated on 07/04/10 (429 review reads)
Advantages: Lovely to look at
Disadvantages: Expensive to buy
I have recently got round to redesigning the back garden of my home (finally after living in the house for two years!). I've gone for a very low maintenance layout.....lots of gravel, pebbles and cobbles, finished off with some lovely pot plants.
The other day I came home to find a new arrival in my garden. A pot had 'appeared' containing a baby tree.
'Do you like it?', my husband said. 'It's a Monkey Puzzle Tree!'
'What on earth is that?', I hear you ask - I certainly did!
I was puzzled and intrigued so I have taken the time to find out about this remarkably strange tree with the unusual name......
Also known as the Chilean Pine or Araucaria Araucana (a member of the Araucariaceae family), the Monkey Puzzle Tree is native to the Southern Hemisphere, particularly the mountains of Chile. As it is such an outstanding tree, in 1990 the Ministerio de Agricultura declared it a Chilean national monument!
Based on fossil records, the species is known to be over 60 million years old. It is thought that the species was first introduced into Britain towards the end of the 18th century by Archibald Menzie, a famous explorer/botanist from Scotland. While travelling in Chile, he was dining out one evening. Unable to identify some nuts that were on the table, he popped a few in his pocket. A number of these sprouted on his voyage home. The rest, as they say, is history!
There are a few theories behind the 'nickname' of the Monkey Puzzle Tree. Some say it is so called because the tree naturally loses its lower branches - it would puzzle a monkey how to climb it! Another story claims that there is a particular breed of monkey which hides in the tree (not in the UK I hasten to add!) Their tails resemble the dense, curved branches, making them a puzzle to spot.
The Monkey Puzzle Tree has a very unusual character which captures the imagination. A fully grown tree is stunning to look at. The branches of this lovely evergreen seem to grow almost symmetrically, creating a bizzare silhouete. The upward sweeping branches are very unusual and covered in stiff, overlapping leaves. Its bark is silvery grey and foliage a fairly dark, rich green colour which is unfortunately quite sharpe to touch. The Monkey Puzzle Tree produces cones as it matures (this takes about 25 years though!). The female produces very large cones that contain dozens of nuts. These are about the same size as a brasil nut and can actually be roasted and eaten.
If you would like to plant one of these trees in your garden, be warned...they grow to be very, very large. In the UK, the tallest specimen on record reached a towering 30 metres (98ft), although this is nothing compared to the whopping 150ft measured in its native climate! In other words, make sure you give it adequate space to grow, well away from your house and other buildings. The rate of growth is very slow though so it would take many years to achieve heights like those mentioned.
Ours is only a tiddler at the moment but we plan to keep it in a pot. This restricts the growth but doesnt in turn harm the tree. It would, I suppose, be a minature version.
Theres good news as this species of tree is fairly easy to look after and maintain as it is perfectly hardy and tolerant of most soil types. They do prefer to be positioned in full sun with well drained soil tough. Its great because I havent got greenfingers whatsoever and even I cant possibly get it wrong!
And now, the bad news...the cost.
Monkey Puzzle Trees are unfortunately expensive to buy. Expect to pay a high price for one that is semi-grown and well established - approximately £50. My husband paid £15 for ours and its not even 30cm tall!
Overall, the Monkey Puzzle Tree is a really attractive tree that can look great in any garden.
And there you have it, the tail of the extraordinary Araucaria Araucana.
Puzzled?....Not any more!