More About the Monkey Puzzle Tree

February 01, 2024




Photographer: John R. Davies
Summary Author: John R. Davies

If you recall from the Earth Science Picture of the Day on November 16, 2023, the monkey puzzle tree (araucaria Araucana), is indeed a beautiful tree. It’s a quite popular garden ornamental in the U.K. as well as in the Netherlands. My house in Northwest England is late Victorian, built in 1900, and has a well-grown adult monkey tree, and also a young 6 ft (2 m) sapling that I planted from its seeds.

The seeds grow on enormous cones, each the size of a bowling ball at the top of the tree. The ones shown in the top photo are half grown! They only appear about two years in five, as the flowers are fertilized by air-spread pollen from the catkins on a male tree -- A. Aurucana is dioecious. I don’t know the location of the nearest adult male tree in my neighborhood, but clearly the wind must blow in the right direction at the right time. When the time is right, the harvest can be generous when the cones shed their seeds. They don’t fall far from the parent tree, despite a little wing at the blunt end. I collect many of the seeds that fall on my lawn, leaving the rest for the wildlife. In a good year, I collect more than 100 seeds. (middle photo)

This lack of aerial ability may be because the nuts (seeds) are enormous! Children love them for their size, their color, a gorgeous orange when fresh (the ones in the photo are a bit faded), and also to eat. They're easy to grow too, just pop them in a pot of compost, point down, and stand back…  But left outside they’ll be sniffed out and eaten by squirrels and mice, so it’s probably best to keep them indoors until they germinate. Additionally, they’re a quick growing tree – the one in the bottom photo is a two-year-old, already about a foot high. However, they soon slow down as my 6 ft foot sapling is at least ten years old, and the parent at 120 years is about 40 ft (12 m) high. If you have the right garden, and the right climate, I recommend that you find one to plant.


Related Links:

Araucaria Trees