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Nature’s puzzle

monkey puzzle tree

Monkey puzzle tree, Kew Gardens, London

monkey puzzle branches

The common name of this tree, monkey puzzle, has probably added to the tree’s fame and the fondness that people have for it.

It is the national tree of Chile, and was discovered by a Spanish explorer in around 1780. In 1795 an English traveller who liked to gather unusual plants brought it home with him. Someone marvelling at the monkey puzzles growing over here, remarked that climbing it would puzzle even a monkey. And hence its name.

It is certainly a puzzling structure and one that I’m very glad to find in Kew Gardens. The tree I’ve featured here was planted in 1978 so it’s quite a youngster. In temperate rainforest, barring intervention by us humans, the monkey puzzles will live beyond their 1000th birthday. Thankfully, Kew is working to conserve this tree by growing more at both their Kew and Wakehurst gardens. They gathered seeds in southern Chile in 2009, and many of these are now flourishing.

monkey puzzle close up
top of a monkey puzzle tree



Copyright Debbie Smyth, 12 January 2021

Posted as part of Tuesday Photo Challenge

13 replies »

    • Ah, a fairly literal translation of Chile pine.
      Yes, there’s one in a garden over the road from me. On a busy road, so not as impressive as seeing it in green open spaces


  1. I am a big fan of these monkey puzzle trees. We do not have any here in Ontario that I know of but I have admired the ones at Kew. Your photos have done it justice Debbie!


  2. Hi Debbie, Great photos. We saw many of these trees in the wild in Southern Chile! They call them Araucaria in Spanish. I bet the first Europeans to see them were from Spain, and the first people to see them were the Mapuche Nation. So discovery probably goes to the latter. 😉 R

    Liked by 1 person

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