Now that I’m working at the Horticultural Program at Lake Washington Institute of Technology I have access to a greenhouse. The students grow all types of crops, from vegetables to fuchsia baskets to perennials. The season is in full swing and I’ve been learning a lot about greenhouse growing. Everything is different inside. Watering and controlling pests and diseases takes on a new perspective from inside a 65F greenhouse. Some of the students have been trying to germinate the seeds of Araucaria araucana, the Monkey Puzzle tree. It took about two months, but just a few of them have begun to sprout, and they are so cute! Tiny little baby monkeys coming from a surprising seed. This tree is so pokey and sharp that it was said to be a puzzle for a monkey to climb it. I first met this tree in Spreckels Park in central California. It grows directly over the childrens playground and not a good tree for tender little feet. The branches dry up and fall off onto the sand and are as sharp as a knives. A dangerous tree in that respect. It’s also rather pokey in the nursery and best handled with care. The monkey puzzle tree is dioecious and has separate male and female trees with the female producing edible nut-like seeds. Unfortunately, this tree is listed as endangered in it’s native Chile due to fire, logging and grazing.
Just the Facts
Araucaria araucana Monkey Puzzle Tree or Chilean Pine
Height 50-80 (15-24m)
Width 20-30 (6-9m)
Native to Chile and Argentina