The Araucaria araucana, commonly known as the Monkey Puzzle Tree, is a majestic evergreen tree that is native to the central and southern regions of Chile and western Argentina. This ancient tree species is unique in its appearance, with a striking pyramid-like shape and branches that spiral around the trunk, resembling the steps of a spiral staircase.
The Monkey Puzzle Tree is known for its large size, with some specimens reaching up to 40 meters in height and 1-1.5 meters in diameter. Its thick, scaly bark is a reddish-brown color and its leaves are sharp and pointed, measuring up to 5 cm in length. The tree also produces large cones that can grow up to 20 cm in length, containing edible seeds that are a traditional food source for the indigenous Mapuche people of Chile and Argentina.
The Monkey Puzzle Tree is a slow-growing species, with some trees taking over 200 years to reach maturity. Due to its unique appearance and cultural significance, the tree has become a popular ornamental plant in gardens and parks around the world, including in the United States, Europe, and Australia.
In its native range, the Monkey Puzzle Tree plays an important ecological role, providing habitat and food for a variety of wildlife species, including birds and small mammals. Unfortunately, the tree is also threatened by habitat loss and illegal logging, as well as by the introduction of non-native species that compete for resources and disrupt the local ecosystem.