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Friday, June 6, 2014

Araucaria aruacana - Monkey Puzzle Tree

The monkey puzzle tree, a native of Chile and Argentina, is a beautiful evergreen conifer with a very formal and symmetrical habit when young. With age they develop into rounded or flat topped trees when very old. Trees have a distinct look with the lateral branches growing outward and slightly upward, but having few secondary branches. I have seen references to them being "prehistoric", or "reptilian" and with monkey tails sticking out of the trunk. The common name came from a gentleman in England centuries ago showing his guests the tree and remarked that "would puzzle a monkey to climb that". 

This is fairly young specimen in a garden in the UK.



A slightly more mature specimen on Bainbridge Island WA.



Classic form of a century old specimen at Chatsworth Garden. This species is by far the hardiest of the genus.



Leaves are evergreen, simple, triangular, held densely on the stem, spirally arranged, very stiff and sharp. Leaves can reach 2" long.



Leaves lasting 15 plus years makes for pretty interesting branches. You can find leaves on pretty large main trunks as well.



Younger trunk showing leaves still attached and functioning.



Trees are dioecious, and the ones I have seen are males. The male cone is 4-6" long and by 2" wide, green when young, maturing brown. Cone scales elongate to release the pollen. 




Bark is smooth when young (at least after the leaves have fallen off) developing into flaking bits as they age and ultimately getting very large. 



This is in Santa Rosa.



Here is the one in Capitola with A. bidwillii growing next to it, a conifer lover if I ever saw one!



Misidentification:
Perhaps the Bunya Bunya tree, but those leaves are more spread out from each other, tend to be in flatted sprays and longer. Have a look at the picture of both in the front yard.

Location
Capitola
4800 Emerald St.

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