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Monkey Puzzle Tree


Araucaria araucana
Common Name: monkey-puzzle tree
Type: Needled evergreen
Family: Araucariaceae
Native Range: Chile, Argentina
Zone: 7 to 10

Habit: Height: 50 to 80 feet. Spread: 20 to 30 feet. Bloom Time: Non-flowering. Bloom Description: Non-flowering. Sun: Full sun to part shade. Water: Medium. Maintenance: Medium. Leaf: Evergreen.

It typically grows to 20-30' tall in cultivation, but may reach 90-130' tall in its native habitat. It is noted for its unique shape. Trees are loose-pyramidal and open when young, but develop an umbrella-like crown with loss of lower branches as they age. Horizontal, upward-arching branches appear in whorls around the trunk with rope-like branchlets. Bark is gray-brown and ridged. Dense, leathery, triangular, radially-arranged leaves (to 2" long) have sharp points. Individual leaves persist for 10 to 15 years. Trees are dioecious (separate male and female trees). Female cones (to 6" long) take 2-3 years to mature, disintegrating at maturity to release the nut-like seeds (each to 1 1/2" long). Seeds (pinones) are edible and reminiscent of pine nuts. The tree is endangered in Chile and is now protected

Culture: Hardy to USDA Zone 7-10 where it is best grown in deep, moderately fertile, evenly moist, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. This tree performs well in a variety of soils as long as they are well-drained. It performs much better with mild summers than in climates with hot summers and may be grown in containers if protected in winter. It is native to volcanic slopes up to 6,000 feet in elevation in the Andes Mountains in Chile and Argentina. It is the national tree of Chile. It reportedly has the best winter hardiness of any tree native to areas in the world south of the equator.

Problems: No serious insect or disease problems. Needle necrosis and canker. Mealybugs, scale and thrips. Spider mites.

Uses: Interesting and unusual ornamental landscape specimen. Monkey puzzle tree does not generally perform as well indoors as a houseplant as does Araucaria heterophylla, commonly known as Norfolk island pine.

Notes: Genus name comes from the Araucanian Indians of central Chile to whose territory Araucaria is native. Specific epithet is in reference to the Araucanian people who are native to Chile. Arauco is a Province of southern Chile. Common name reportedly comes from a comment made in England in the mid-1800s where an observer of a specimen tree growing in Cornwall remarked that it would puzzle a monkey to climb that tree.

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