Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Arboreal tetrapod puzzler

Another ancient tree species: Araucaria araucana, the monkey-puzzle. The name is totally inappropriate as this species' native range is a monkey-free territory in Chile and Argentina.


This specimen at RBG Kew is slightly atypical in that it is mature but has retained branches to ground level. Usually they end up all mop-headed and less attractive in old age as they drop the bottom branches. The only other specimen I've seen do this was one in my Aunt's front garden in suburban England looking both spectacular and hilariously out of place at the same time. This is a big tree btw not suitable for front gardens as a rule.

Its shape allowed a macro close-up of these cones which I think are male.


The nuts are edible and supposedly it was first smuggled out of Chile by Archibald Menzies (I think) stashing some from a state banquet and fleeing the jurisdiction.


Julia said...

It's a beauty isn't it? I don't know enough about them to confirm whether they are male or not, I'm afraid. My friend took me there as my birthday treat from her, and she wondered why I was actually more excited about that particular monkey puzzle than the Wollemi pine...

Dan said...

These are great pictures of the Monkey Puzzle tree. I have read somewhere that the name came from someone in England, back when this species was first introduced, who took a look at the tree and said something like "a monkey would be really puzzled on how to climb that tree". I guess the idea stuck and thus the name.

tai haku said...

It is lovely Julia - perhaps the Wollemi will form a similarly elegant shape but I doubt it.

Dan you are entirely correct re the origin of the name; it was someone from one of the large estates in Cornwall I believe.