Monkey Puzzle – Araucaria araucana

Tree of the Week

24th March 2020 | Info

Common name: Monkey Puzzle

Scientific name: Araucaria araucana 

Introduction: The Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria araucana) is an evergreen tree that is native to central and southern Chile and Western Argentina. It is best known for its unique spiralled foliage and is a popular ornamental park and garden tree.


Leaves: The leaves of a monkey puzzle are typically dark green, leathery and digitately shaped. Usually, the leaves will be thicker at the base and have sharp tips. They also have a unique spiral formation.  

[The leaves of a Monkey Puzzle]

Bark: Purpley-brown and smooth. 

Form: Bushy with a broad, cylindrical trunk.


Monkey Puzzles are dioecious. Their male catkins are long and slim, form in clusters. They begin green but change to yellow then brown throughout the summer months. Their female catkins, however, are prickly cones that are a golden olive colour. They form on the tips of branches and take on average 2-3 years to ripen. Once ripened, they eventually turn brown and release large brown seeds. 

[The leaves and female cones of the Monkey Puzzle]

Growth Habit

Slow to medium growth rate as can take anything from around 20-50 years to reach their ultimate height and width.

Ecological Importance

In their native habitat, the Monkey Puzzle is home to the Slender-Billed Parakeet and a range of endemic insects. Unfortunately, however, they are endangered/under threat in its native home country of Chile due to overharvesting.

Uses of Monkey Puzzle Wood

The monkey puzzle is more of an ornamental tree in the UK; however, in Chile, the timber is known to have commonly been used. 

Styling of Monkey Puzzle/Where to Find Them

The Monkey Puzzle is a popular ornamental tree and is commonly found in many parks and gardens.

Associated Pests and Diseases

They are typically pest free; however, they, unfortunately, can be affected by the Honey fungus.

Interesting Facts

The Monkey Puzzle has been around for hundreds of millions of years, dating back to when dinosaurs were still plodding around on Earth. They were introduced to the UK in the mid1790s and became extremely popular in the Victorian Era. The Monkey Puzzle has also been declared as a natural monument of Chile to help prevent its further depletion.


Pruning and Pruning Qualities: Monkey Puzzles requite little pruning once they are established to maintain an aesthetically pleasing appearance. Like most trees, all dead/diseased branches should be removed to help them remain healthy and help prevent the further spread of disease. Suckers, congested branches and branches that form in unwanted places should also be removed as to maintain their ornamental tree aesthetic and help the tree remain healthy too. Ideally, pruning should be carried out in late winter to early spring, or dead/diseased branches should be removed immediately if necessary. If you are ever unsure about what your tree needs, then it is always encouraged that you consult your local tree surgeon. They will be able to provide you with professional help and answer any questions that you may have. You can find your local tree surgeon here. 

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