Monkey Puzzle

Aracaria araucana

This tree is near the entrance to the Old English garden on North Carriage Drive. It is still a small young specimen but may live for a hundred years and possibly reach 100 feet high. In the wild it can double this and even have a trunk 5 feet in width. If it does gain some height it is unlikely to keep its lower branches, which is typical of city planted trees.These Chilean pines, as they are also called, are very much Victorian ornamental and hence most suitable for our Park. Although first introduced in 1795 they were only being commonly planted at the start of Queen Victoria’s reign. It seems inconceivable they were not grown in the Park although only living 100 years any originals would be long gone.Of their many peculiarities, such as cones the size of coconuts, a trunk like an elephants leg and branches over 50 years old, they also have edibles seeds. Chilean Indians made them into pastry and also a local firewater! The ships botanist on H.M.S. Discovery is said to have pocketed the ones he was served as a dessert and they ended up original introductions. Like so many other plants far away from home they are disease free but even so the timber is of little use, being far too knotty, although it is said to hold a nail well.