Distinctive and spiky, the monkey puzzle has been making strong impressions since dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Did you know?
The common name of 'monkey puzzle' was coined during the mid-1800s when Charles Austin, a noted barrister, on seeing the tree for the first time commented that climbing the spiny, spiralling branches would be a puzzle even for a monkey.
Monkey puzzle is native to central and southern Chile and western Argentina. It was first brought to the UK in 1795. It became very popular during the Victorian and Edwardian era and is now widely planted as an ornamental in parks and gardens.
Reaching up to 30m in height, monkey puzzle has a stout, almost cylindrical trunk with smooth bark that has a purplish-brown colour. The base of a large tree can resemble an elephant's foot.
Common names: monkey puzzle, Chilean pine, monkey tail tree, araucaria
Scientific name: Araucaria araucana
Mythology and symbolism, it is said that speaking while passing one will bring bad luck or
cause you to grow a monkey's tail. There is an old belief that planting a monkey puzzle on the edge of a graveyard would prevent the Devil from entering during a burial. This link with the Devil extends country-wide; many even believing that the Devil lives in the monkey puzzle tree. It is possible that this story of the Devil living in the tree was invented by concerned parents trying to stop their children climbing the spiky branches.
Uses of monkey puzzle In Europe and North America, monkey puzzles are planted as ornamental trees, although the seeds are also edible. The timber has been widely used in Chile.
Interestingly there is also a book named MONKEY PUZZLE TREE, a true crime story written by Stephen Gillen.