Forest 12 - Monkey Puzzle


Araucaria araucana

Monkey puzzle tree. Photo not from Arboretum 

Other common names

Chile pine. Indigenous:  Pehuén

Origin of the species name

Araucaria is derived from the tribe name Aracanos; araucana is derived from the same tribe name.

Family

Araucariaceae

Date planted

October 2009

Lifespan

Monkey puzzles can live for over 1,000 years.

Monkey puzzle tree in Forest 12. Photo by L Muldoon

General description

This is a large evergreen tree which loses its branches for over two thirds of the single trunk, resulting in a high and open crown. The bark is grey-brown, resinous and smooth. The long lasting, shiny green leaves are triangular, scale-like and have a very sharp tip. The very large cones are dark brown and almost round. Height 35m Spread 15m.

Natural distribution and habitat

The species is native to south-central Chile and west central Argentina. Its native habitat is the lower slopes of the south-central Andes, growing above 1,000 metres up to the timberline in regions with sometimes heavy snowfall and extreme temperatures.

Conservation status

Internationally, it is registered as a threatened species. Since the colonial period, it has been heavily exploited as a construction timber, especially in the mining industry. In Argentina in 1960 its felling was prohibited and the principal remaining stands fall under the jurisdiction of national parks. However, areas of the wild forest outside of parks have been lost and it has been highly fragmented.

Uses

The seeds are edible, similar to large pine nuts, and are extensively harvested in Chile.  An indigenous group living in the Andes, the Pehuenches, owe their name to their diet based on harvesting of the Araucaria seeds.  In the Andes, its distribution is closely associated with volcanic activity and it is able to start colonising areas after volcanic eruptions before other tree species.  It is the national tree of Chile.

Planting pattern

Irregular.

Further reading

Farjon, A (2010) A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Brill.