More Notable Trees
Monkey Puzzle, Araucaria araucana
The monkey puzzle or Chile pine (Araucaria araucana) is an evergreen conifer native to Argentina and Chile. It was discovered in about 1780 by a Spanish explorer and introduced to England by Archibald Menzies in 1795. Menzies was a plant collector and naval surgeon on Captain George Vancouver's circumnavigation of the globe travelling in Cook's old ship the Discovery. He was served the seeds of the conifer as a dessert while dining with the governor of Chile and later sowed them in a frame on the quarter deck, returning home to England with five healthy plants. One of these could be seen at Kew until it died in 1892.
The Latin name is derived from Arauco, the name of the Chilean province where the tree was first found, but the common name alludes to the fact that the task of climbing the tree, with its sharp branches tightly clothed with spiny leaves, would puzzle even a monkey.
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Search Kew's electronic Plant Information Centre for scientific information about Araucaria araucana