Araucaria Araucana is a tree that does not like to take a backseat to any other. Even its nickname "Monkey Puzzle tree" screams for attention.
A member plant of the genus Araucaria, this unique conifer is endangered in its native Chile and Argentina, but is a favored ornamental in U.S. and European arboreta collections and botanical gardens.
The Monkey Puzzle tree is recognized by its tough and spiky, triangular-shaped leaves.
Araucaria araucana (commonly called the monkey puzzle tree, monkey tail tree, Chilean pine, or pehu_n) photograph by Martin Cooper.
As the tree ages, it loses its lower branches while those above develop an umbrella-like appearance.
Its gray bark with wrinkled, horizontal folds, suggestive of an elephant's hide, only adds to the tree's exoticism.
Most Monkey Puzzle trees are dioecious, meaning that male and female cones appear on separate trees.
The females have pineapple-shaped cones, while the males are egg-shaped and erect. Each male cone produces about 120 to 200 seeds. The trees are wind-pollinated.
In its native habitat, the Monkey Puzzle tree, also known as Chilean Pine, reaches heights of 50 to 80 feet (15 to 24 m) with about a 20 to 30 foot spread (6 to 10 m), but it grows to only about half the size in cultivation.
Recommended for hardiness zones 7 to 10, it is best planted in full sun to partial shade and in moist but well-drained and slightly-acidic clay, loamy or sandy soils.
When planting Araucaria Araucana, simply dig a hole twice as wide and as deep as the root ball, backfill and tamp down.
Water well throughout the first year.
As the story goes, the Monkey Puzzle Tree garnered its unique name around 1850 when an English barrister in Cornwall, remarking on its sharp-edged branches, said it would puzzle a monkey to try to climb it. Certainly, no animal would dare try without plenty of time to spare.
I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Araucaria araucana. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides for trees with attractive foliage: How to grow Yucca filamentosa and Washingtonia robusta plants.