Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Monkey Puzzle Tree
Araucaria araucana

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Family: Araucariaceae
Genus: Araucaria (air-ah-KAIR-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: araucana (air-ah-KAY-nuh) (Info)

Synonym:Araucaria imbricata

3 vendors have this plant for sale.

26 members have or want this plant for trade.

Category:
Trees

Height:
over 40 ft. (12 m)

Spacing:
20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

Hardiness:
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Danger:
Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling
N/A

Bloom Color:
Brown/Bronze

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring

Foliage:
Grown for foliage
Evergreen

Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
4.6 to 5.0 (highly acidic)
5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

Patent Information:
Non-patented

Propagation Methods:
From seed; sow indoors before last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible

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There are a total of 76 photos.
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Profile:

20 positives
10 neutrals
2 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

RatingAuthorContent
Positive Hibiscusfan On Sep 10, 2013, Hibiscusfan from Villas, NJ wrote:

Grows in Villas, New Jersey! Such a NEAT tree!

Positive floramakros On Mar 7, 2012, floramakros from Davis, CA wrote:

Young specimens (about 6 to 12 ft) are truly eyecatching, like an alien standing on your lawn. Regarding the comments that a gardener won't live to see the adult tree, I got news for you, most of us tree lovers will never live to see the adult size of the trees we plant! We do it for future generations. I consider every tree I plant to be a time capsule for my great-grandchildren (and I'm still pretty young, lol). They are surprisingly heat resistant in CA, you can see a beautiful example at the Sacramento Zoo. The Norfolk Island Pines there unfortunately are not doing too well, I consider them an indoor tree in the Sac Valley and that's how most people keep them, I have 7 which tells you how much I love Araucarias. The negative experiences described are obviously talking about bunya-bunyas, I don't know how anyone can confuse the two species. The Northwest US is the perfect environment for Monkey Puzzles and all Araucarias in general (giant Norfolks can be seen all over San Francisco). The SF Arboretum has specimens of all 3, they're fantastic looking trees. Highly recommended.

Neutral DMersh On Oct 20, 2011, DMersh from Perth
United Kingdom (Zone 7b) wrote:

One of the most viciously spiny growing things on the planet, you'd have to look to cacti to find a more dangerous plant/tree. Even the cones are sharply spined and leaves on bigger branches are actually like small daggers (leaves get woodier and stronger with age). And best of all the branches are highly prone to dropping off! (the wood is poor and lightweight and prone to breakages)
I wouldn't fancy the chances of anyone hit by a large falling branch, quite apart from the weight the sharp leaves could inflict severe flesh wounds. Best not to be underneath a large tree, at least in windy weather!
A high altitude alpine tree needing excellent light, clean air and reasonably high rainfall but no high temperatures - it is ill suited to areas that have hot, dry summers. Accepts cold winters with snow and prolonged freezing periods.

Positive clcg1 On Sep 26, 2010, clcg1 from Cleveland, OH wrote:

I have to disagree with coments made that this tree is extremely poorly adapted to the south east US,and does not tolorate heat and humidity well.When I used to live in tuscaloosa alabama before i moved back home to ohio.My monkey puzzel tree was perectly healthy for three years outside in a pot down there in full sunlight with no protection whats so ever all year long.neither the summer heat nor the frosts of winter damaged it.i believe what kills many araucaria trees is to much or to little water.

Neutral runnow On Jun 9, 2010, runnow from Sevierville, TN wrote:

This rather odd looking tree is extremely poorly adapted for Southeast U.S. as it does not tolerate heat and
humidity well. I have tried it 4 times and 4 times it has died
once the temperature have been in the 80's for a few weeks.It is frequently confused with A. bidwilli which is suited
for the lower South. By contrast A. angustifolia has been succesful both times I have tried it. Most people in the South
who think they have this actually have A. bidwillii.

Positive Tabz On Mar 24, 2010, Tabz from Estacada, OR wrote:

We bought a home with this Wonderful Tree. We had no clue what it was then we looked it up. My teen daughter touched it & gave him a name His name is "PRICK" it takes 3 people to groom him/Her. They are great conversation starts for people that have never seen one. We just learned that Prick is a Female. She has her first cone.

Positive purplesun On Mar 13, 2010, purplesun from Krapets
Bulgaria (Zone 8a) wrote:

Got one of these as a present from a German lady. I have put it in a large pot and have overwintered it in a cool passage-way. So far, it looks good. Will put it out soon. I suspect this one will become soon too cumbersome to be handled easily. I lost two expensive specimens a couple of years ago, so had been wary of purchasing any more of these. Pollution is the suspected culprit. Sofia, Bulgaria, 2300 feet AMSL, Z 6b.
I love this tree. It is so attractive-looking.

Neutral dhkmpt On Jan 26, 2010, dhkmpt from Calgary
Canada wrote:

I have a MPT that lives inside (we live in Calgary). It is starting to turn brown. Is this due to too much water, too little water, something else? Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks, dhkmpt

Neutral Ahuatomatl On Oct 30, 2009, Ahuatomatl from San Diego, CA wrote:

Does anybody have any experience planting from seed? I found some under a large old specimen in Hillcrest, San Diego. I think they may have dried out and are not viable. I'd like to hear from anybody who has had experience planting from seed.

Positive johnson11 On Feb 12, 2008, johnson11 from Clermont, FL wrote:

well i have one of these trees and i been doing this research stuff and i live back in the country and it drops them pod looking things, and well they weigh over 20 pounds. this thing is crazy. it has to be over a 100years old. the house i live in is my great grand mother's house she built. but it is soooooooo tall. the pods are over 12inchs long. well ok

Positive Allison22 On Aug 30, 2006, Allison22 from Victoria
Canada wrote:

There are many Monkey Trees in Victoria, BC, Canada - we even have a Monkey Tree Pub!! (where one once grew, and has been now taken down to make more room for pub patrons). Many LARGE ones on residential properties grow in Victoria - they aren't too hard to find as they stick up above our large fir trees.

On a fun note, my boyfriend and I play the "monkey tree" game while driving (although we know where most are in Victoria), but when we see one, we get to 'anti-up' (punch buggy) on eachother with them - the rules are, you can't use the same tree in the same day, and you can't 'anti-up' until you actually see the tree. Its a fun game while driving (especially being the passenger in the vehicle).

Enjoy Monkey Tree Climbing- LOL!!!

Neutral Shine2 On Mar 5, 2006, Shine2 from Milwaukie, OR (Zone 8a) wrote:

From Shine2:
I haven't grown this plant, but just wanted to share with fellow gardeners that there is a beautiful specimen of Araucaria araucana growing at Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, Oregon. During the 1906 Lewis and Clark Exposition people from Chile gave out either seeds or small plants to people from Portland and went home and planted it in there neighborhoods. I am not sure which neighborhoods they are in, but will find out and share the infomation with you. Many people grow Araucaria heterophylla (Norfolk Island Pine) as an indoor plant. It is a favorite Christmas tree in Hawaii.

Positive Gustichock On Feb 12, 2006, Gustichock from Tandil
Argentina (Zone 10b) wrote:

I'm from Argentina but I live in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, temperature here is quite high to grow this tree, so Ive always wonder how different it would be from the other native Araucaria that grows in my country and that is also cultivated here where I live as an ornamental tree (A. angustifolia). There are also other types of exotics Araucarias that are cultivated here (A. Bidwillii, A. heterophylla, etc.) but are completely different from A. araucana. Theres no way to confuse them!

Anyway! Ive always seen this tree by pictures until Ive made a trip to Patagonia! Oh my Gosh!! They are beautiful!!! Separated or in groups, they are just beautiful!! I had the chance to go to National Parks over there and literally be able to hug araucarias 800 years old!

Ive brought some seeds with me and Ive made them germinate. Actually, I had four little trees but they didnt make it through the summer. Too bad!

Now, I see theres people that say they grow this tree in Florida.
Gus.

Neutral islandman007 On Sep 25, 2005, islandman007 from Germantown, MD (Zone 7a) wrote:

I really love the Monkey Puzzle Tree and bought a 2 foot tree from a mailorder nursery back in February 2005. I planted it in a pot using cacti soil mix as recommended by my local nursery since it has good drainage. I kept the tree in my greenhouse until May 2005 and then put it outside. It grew well until about August 2005 when I noticed the leaves starting to turn brown. It looks like I wont be able to save the tree but I have no idea what I did wrong.

Iwant to purchase another Monkey Puzzle Tree and give it one last shot.

Hans

Neutral coastgarden On May 1, 2005, coastgarden from Bay Center, WA (Zone 5a) wrote:

We bought our home, built 1892. It is located in a fishing village, which now is about 1/10th the activity of the community when it was originally formed. Back in the 1900s, ships used to come into the harbor on the bay here. The original owner of this house would go out to meet the ship captains and invited them to dinner. One of the captains had brought the seeds from monkey puzzle tree in Chile and gifted one to her. She planted it and it has been growing for 90 + years.

It was quite the landmark in the village and was featured in a drawing along with the historic house in Back Roads of Washington. We have few actual photos though, of what it looked like over the years as it was maturing and still holding it's limbs and green color.

While it was spectacular back in its day, when we bought the house it was losing its limbs and looking scraggly. By the next year, it was more brown than green. We had a neighbor brave the nasty, spindly branches and cut them off upwards to open some space and hopefully save the tree. It was planted at an intersection and its huge growth cut off visibility.

I'm not even sure if the tree is still 'alive' now as it is all brown and there are only hints of green at the tip and in some few new side branch shoots. We are loathe to take it down, but I don't know enough about the nature of a mature monkey puzzle tree to know if it is living or dying. I'm concerned that if it is dying, at some point it will topple and that will mean some serious damage. Again, we don't know the nature of aged monkey puzzle trees or their life-span. It's our homeowner dilemna.

See the photo I entered showing the mature 90 + yr old monkey puzzle tree. Photo taken at dusk, so it's dark, doesn't show how brown the limbs are in daylight.

Positive Ursula On Mar 9, 2005, Ursula from Santiago
Chile (Zone 9b) wrote:

Araucaria araucana is native to Chile and Argentina. This magnificent tree can reach 50 m height and 1000 year old trees have been found in Chile. Their natural habitat is in the mountains (between 600 and 1700 m.a.s.l.), at full sun and specially growing in volcanic, well drained and nutrient rich soil. Their root system goes down very deep.

This tree is 'dioico'; i.e. has female and male flowers on separate trees. Adult trees only grow branches on their very top. They grow slowly during their first years and will produce fruits around their 25th year.

Their popular name is "Pehun" and it is the sacred tree of the Pehuenches (Pehun men) that have always lived associated to this tree from which they obtain their food. The seed is edible and used in many ways. It can be eaten cooked the same as chesnuts. Pehuenches make flour to bake their bread, etc.

Arauco is the area of the country where they mainly grow.

To propagate this tree you must be sure you have VERY fresh seeds, because they are viable only 3 to 4 months. They must be cold treated at 4C, wrapped in humid newspaper and left in the fruit-compartment of the refrigerator for a whole month. Then they must be sowed in individual bags or pots in a mix of equal parts of river sand, acid soil and compost. Be sure the bags/pots have good drainage. Otherwise, the excessive water can cause yellow leaves and roots to rot.

This tree is recommended for parks, plazas, city landscaping and only very large private gardens.

Positive jaoakley On Sep 1, 2004, jaoakley from Toronto, ON (Zone 5b) wrote:

These are rather peculiar trees, or at least they are from my perspective. These trees cannot be grown in any part of Canada except the warm areas of coastal British Columbia, meaning that these trees are very different from the ones I'm used to seeing in Ontario. The large bract-like leaves are certainly a feature unseen on Canadian conifers.

These trees have a very interesting growth pattern that isn't easy to see unless you observe a specimen for a period of time. Instead of producing one whorl of branches a year like other conifers such as spruce and fir, Monkey Puzzles produce an average of only two thirds of a whorl a year. Thus, a tree with 50 whorls is actually 75.

Positive Fresnojoe On Jul 23, 2004, Fresnojoe from Fresno, CA wrote:

We live in Fresno, CA. we inherited our tree as well. When we first arrived the tree was surrounded by juniper bushes. The tree was small and grew very little. We removed the junipers and the tree doubled in height in little over a year. That was 10 years ago and this year was the first that cones started to hit the ground. The tree is shapely and beautiful. It always draws a comment from visitors. If you plan to plant one, give it plenty of space away from walkways. Buy a good pair of gloves and wear a hat and goggles when pruning. I have had little problem keeping it looking good despite the occasional role of TP in the branches!!

Positive billjudyc On Jul 16, 2004, billjudyc from Mount Pulaski, IL wrote:

I have had mine in my sunroom ,which has overhead skylights, for about 5 years. It's about 7' tall. I'm in Central Illinois. The decorative pot it's in is sitting in a larger pot without touching the bottom. The bottom always has water standing and the roots have snaked through the original pot and are exposed and touching the water at all times. I'm afraid to transplant now. But lately I've noticed the tips of the branches are dying (only about 1-2") Don't know what I should do now.

Positive TTPVentura On Jun 28, 2004, TTPVentura from Ojai, CA wrote:

We recently purchased a home with a Monkey Puzzle tree in the front yard. It is about 80 feet tall and very beautiful. That was until last week when 8 to 10 pound green cones started falling from the top of the tree. I have put up barrier tape to block part of the driveway. We were told, by the previous owners, that these dropped in the fall every other year, but this seems very early. We really love the tree and it is very unique, but our front yard looks like a scene out of CSI.

Negative livermore On May 28, 2004, livermore from Livermore, CA wrote:

My trees are 120 years old - part of a large garden which belonged to a Sanitarium in the 1890's. The dropped limbs and cones are extremely dangerous. Cones the size of basketballs have dropped, weighing 17 pounds! As these cones drop (from the top of the tree) they break the lower branches, badly damaging the shape of the tree. Only the male tree keeps a nice shape, since it doesn't suffer the damage from the cones.
You might like this unique tree, but few gardeners will live long enough to enjoy seeing this tree grow to its full height, or to bear the consequences of the dangerous cones. If you must have one, plant it in a large space - away from pedestrian traffic.

Neutral insydney On Apr 5, 2004, insydney from sydney
Australia wrote:

All the araucarias - the Norfolk, Hoop, Bunya, Cook etc- are named after this. It is named for the Araucanos indians in whose territory it grew (hence Araucaria Araucanos). The seeds were eaten by the Spanish in the nearest ports, but the tree had never been seen till explorers went inland. It was one of the most popular 'gardenesque' trees in Victorian gardens, and often grown on estates in avenues. In England it seems to grow quite quickly, and with a more pronounced trunk. It is called a 'monkeypuzzle' because one 19thC observor commented that with such a spiny trunk and leaves 'even a monkey would find it a puzzle to climb'. A quintessential tree for a period garden.

Positive kaylee0922 On Feb 9, 2004, kaylee0922 wrote:

I had purchased a monkey puzzle tree about 6 months ago at a local nursery here in Wisconsin for $25. They didn't know much about the tree so I am trying to find out all that I can. At the moment I have it growing in my apartment in a pot. It is about 4 feet tall and very healthy. I treat it lightly with fertilizer and water regularly. I would say though that it receives full sun. I am a bit confused as to its actual value.. Some sites state that they are quite expensive and rare. I personally love it and it draws a lot of conversation when people come over!

Positive Dutch On Jan 12, 2004, Dutch wrote:

I enjoy seeing the dif types of trees and plants from one climate to another. I moved from the Canadian prairies to the West Coast and this tree is def something we didn't have. I have also discovered it in England growing strangley tall and all trunk. I am now in the Netherlands and am suprised to find them thriving in this wet climate.

Positive pleb On Sep 2, 2003, pleb from Plymouth,
United Kingdom (Zone 9a) wrote:

The Monkey Puzzle can be grown from seed. Sow in heat, about 70F, in spring. The seeds are very large and can be sown one to a pot. Germination should occur after a month or two. The trouble is that the seedling tends to emerge above ground with their seedcoat attached and this has to be carefully removed. After germination the seedling can have its heat reduced. I obtained my seeds from Chilterns.

Neutral stevenova On Aug 31, 2003, stevenova from Newcastle
United Kingdom (Zone 8a) wrote:

The image posted by agardener2 Looks more like A. bidwillii (Bunya-Bunya Pine) to me. The trailing branchlets are definately not a feature of the cool growing A. araucana!

Negative agardener2 On Aug 31, 2003, agardener2 wrote:

I live in the central valley of California where the summers are extremely hot and have a Monkey Puzzle Tree in my yard which is approximately 70-90 feet tall. While it is a magnificent tree, I find it to be a royal pain in an urban landscape. It is very messy - there is always debris to clean up (you'd better have heavy duty gloves due to the razor sharp edges). I inherited this tree and it is planted close to the street which is frequented by walkers. The seed cones fall only from the top part of the tree every few years and weigh up to 10 pounds. There have been some near misses! Just make sure you have plenty of room if you plant one, and plant it in a spot which won't have a lot of people or property underneath.

Positive palmbob On Jul 16, 2003, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

As a lover of spiny, weird things, this has always been one of my favorite trees. It is like a tree-cycad... stiff, incredibly sharp, all over- trunk to tips of branches. Alas, though living in So Cal, we are often blessed with great growing seasons and a humongous variety of possibilities, this is one of the few that only grows were it doesn't get too hot. Several attempts at this species have all failed. It can't handle the heat of inland Los Angeles climates. Too bad.

Many comments below (notably the two negative ones) are obviously directed toward the Bunya Bunya, or False Monkey Puzzle tree (Araucaria bidwillii), also a very tall, massive tree with huge cones (Monkey Puzzle trees have fascinating cones, but they are not unusually large or dangerous) that grows well (and significantly faster than a Monkey Puzzle tree) in warmer climates such as those of inland and southern California. The two species are not that alike however, and those comments below provided by those who obviously do not know the difference, need to be taken with a grain of salt.

Neutral IslandJim On Jun 22, 2003, IslandJim from Keizer, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

this is a very interesting tree. it is often confused with araucaria bidwillii--and the latter is often sold as the former because, i would guess, more people will buy something called "monkey puzzle" than something called "bunya-bunya." of interest, perhaps, is that the other common species of this genus, a. heterophylla, is the norfolk island pine, which looks cute in a pot in a northern office but looks very ugly in a tropical landscape.
the largest true monkey puzzle i've seen is on the capital grounds in sacramento. huge old specimen on the northwest corner of the mall.

Positive fje65 On Jun 22, 2003, fje65 from Levittown, NY wrote:

This tree always gets a comment. From people asking me where to get one, to my Father calling it Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. We live on Long Island, NY. It is groing very well, We did lose a few bottom branches to this bad winter. Overall very unique plant to Have. WE Love it !!!! Frank & Jackie

Positive snowelk2002 On May 30, 2003, snowelk2002 wrote:

I has seen this tree grow for years and it pretty heavy pine cone which is green but very carefully when the heavy pine cone drop to ground then I pick up the pine cone and sure it weight about either 5 or 8 pounds green fresh pine cone then it dried up tan pine cone also it has seeds inside of the leaves. It's take long time to sow the seeds.

Positive Stribling On May 26, 2003, Stribling from Thomasville, GA wrote:

I have seen two of these trees in Thomasville, Georgia and one in Pavo, Georgia. The one in PAVO is on the MILAM Nursery Farm on Rt. 122. It is over 150 years old according to Mrs. Milam. It is majestic and worth stopping by to see. They were brought to Georgia via England. The Brits brought it back from Chile and propagated it in England. Mrs. Milam says that the branches that turn up on the end are the ones to use to root new seedlings.

Regional...

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

, (3 reports)
Orange Beach, Alabama
Tuscaloosa, Alabama
El Macero, California
Fresno, California
Livermore, California
San Diego, California
San Leandro, California
Waterford, Connecticut
Clermont, Florida
Hollywood, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida
Lutz, Florida
Miami, Florida
Zephyrhills, Florida
Thomasville, Georgia
Mount Pulaski, Illinois
Mandeville, Louisiana
Dennis, Massachusetts
Neptune, New Jersey
Villas, New Jersey
Levittown, New York
Staten Island, New York (2 reports)
Cleveland, Ohio
Clackamas, Oregon
Corvallis, Oregon
Cottage Grove, Oregon
Estacada, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Salem, Oregon
Tillamook, Oregon
Turner, Oregon
Conway, South Carolina
Plano, Texas
Amboy, Washington
Bay Center, Washington
Bremerton, Washington
Centralia, Washington
Olympia, Washington
Puyallup, Washington
Seattle, Washington



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