Monkey-puzzle

©Philip Precey

Monkey-puzzle

Scientific name: Araucaria araucana
The Monkey-puzzle tree is unmistakeable with its pyramidal shape, jutting branches and stiff, dark green 'spines' (its leaves). Widely planted in the UK's parks and gardens, it is threatened globally.

Species information

Statistics

Height: up to 50m

Conservation status

Introduced, but naturalised species. Listed as Endangered on the global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

When to see

January to December

About

The Monkey-puzzle is a large, evergreen tree that has been widely planted in parks and gardens. It was introduced into the UK from Chile in the 18th century by a botanist who managed to grow the seedlings on his ship and then donated them to Kew. By Victorian times, it had become a popular tree to plant in gardens and even in plantations.

How to identify

Monkey-puzzle trees are unmistakeable: they are pyramidal in shape, with horizontal branches jutting out from the trunk in tiers; the branches are covered in stiff, dark green spines that are actually leaves.

Distribution

Widespread.

Did you know?

The name 'Monkey-puzzle' comes from the Victorian idea that the arrangement of the branches of the tree would puzzle any monkey trying to climb it.

How people can help

Our gardens are a vital resource for wildlife, providing corridors of green space between open countryside, allowing species to move about. In fact, the UK's gardens provide more space for nature than all the National Nature Reserves put together. So why not try planting native plants and trees to entice birds, mammals and invertebrates into your backyard? To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started.