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Monkeypuzzle Tree Araucaria araucana

Previously known as:

  • A. imbricata
Phonetic Spelling
ar-ah-KAR-ee-uh ar-ah-KAY-nuh
Description

The Araucaria genus is comprised of approximately 19 species of pine-like conifers indigenous to the Southern hemisphere. A. araucana or Monkey Puzzle Tree is the hardiest of these species. It is a large, stately evergreen conifer native to the volcanic hills of the Andes mountains in southern Chile and western Argentina. It is the national tree of Chile and thrives in maritime areas with mild, cool, climates. It is sometimes called a living fossil due to its longevity and unusual appearance resembling fossilized plants.

Juveniles are conical or pyramidal with sparse, symmetrical, rope-like branches forming an open growth habit. At maturity, the crown broadens into an umbrella-shaped canopy atop a tall straight trunk with few lower branches. Native specimens can live to 1000 or more years. In the 18th century, Spanish colonizers took specimens, introducing it then to England and subsequent nursery commerce. In its native setting, it reaches a height of 130 feet with a 7-foot diameter trunk. Cultivated specimens are typically much smaller (60-70 feet tall x 30-35 feet wide).

This tree is not naturalized in North America, and cold hardiness only to USDA zone 7 limits its use in the U.S. However, it has potential as a unique garden specimen in some areas of the south, southwest and west coast U.S. This tree has few pests or diseases and thrives best with full sun, well-drained soil and frequent watering. It tolerates nearly any type of soil, including clay, provided it is well-drained. It grows best in open, full sun locations with ample room to accommodate its large size when mature. Additional site considerations are surface roots that may interfere with lawn mowing and lift sidewalks or hardscaping. Fallen cones may be an undesirable litter or pedestrian nuisance.

Insects, Diseases and Other Plant Problems:  This tree does not tolerate urban pollution.  It is generally pest resistant but has some susceptibility to scales, leaf spot, phytophthora, root rot and sooty molds.  Siting must allow adequate space for this tree's large size at maturity as surface roots are capable of lifting sidewalks and impeding lawn mowing.  Large falling cones may be an undesirable litter or pedestrian issue.

 

See this plant in the following landscapes:
Mountain Ridge Top Garden - East Lawn and Lower Drive Border
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#evergreen#sculptural#specimen#large tree#pyramidal#winter interest#security plant#needled evergreen
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#evergreen#sculptural#specimen#large tree#pyramidal#winter interest#security plant#needled evergreen
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Araucaria
    Species:
    araucana
    Family:
    Araucariaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Indigenous peoples of Chile and Argentina harvest the seeds for food, using them to make flour and a fermented beverage (muday). Some consider the tree to be sacred. Its long straight trunk was historically desirable for lumber, but logging is currently prohibited due to its endangered status.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    South America, Chile, Argentina
    Distribution:
    Chile, Argentina, England
    Wildlife Value:
    Seeds are a food source for small mammals
    Play Value:
    Edible fruit
    Textural
    Wildlife Food Source
    Edibility:
    Large nut-like seeds (piƱones) are edible and taste best when roasted.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 50 ft. 0 in. - 80 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 20 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Conical
    Erect
    Pyramidal
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a, 10b, 10a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    Trees are mostly dioecious, having male and female cones on separate trees, however, both male and female cones occasionally appear on the same tree. Oblong male cones up, to 6 inches in length, are situated in clusters at the ends of shoots and release pollen to female seed cones via wind dispersion. Pineapple-shaped female seed cones are ovoid to spherical, up to 8 inches in size and contain up to 200 seeds. At maturity, which takes 2-3 years, seed cones drop to the ground where they release the seeds. Mature trees release a prolific amount of seeds but cannot do so until they are 30-40 years old.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Description:
    Non-flowering
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Thick, simple, alternate, ovate-lanceolate leaves are triangularly shaped, scale-like, and densely arranged spirally around the stem such that the stem is not visible. On younger trees, the leaves also cover the bark. The base of each leaf is the widest, then tapering to a stiff, spiny pointed tip. Leaf dimensions are relatively broad (about 1 inch wide at the base and up to 2 inches in length to its pointed tip). Leaves are very hard and sharp and may last for up to 10-15 years.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Fissured
    Furrowed
    Bark Description:
    Gray-brown bark is deeply wrinkled with horizontal folds
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Lawn
    Meadow
    Vertical Spaces
    Landscape Theme:
    Asian Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Security
    Specimen
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Fire
    Poor Soil
    Salt
    Problems:
    Messy