Saturday, 12 March 2011

The Monkey Puzzle tree


This large Monkey-Puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) is an exotic addition to a small Saltaire garden.  Native to the south-central Andes in South America, the trees nevertheless grow well in northern Europe's temperate climate.  The genus can be traced back 250 million years to the Mesozoic era and its spikey leaves probably developed to fend off grazing dinosaurs. (It seems to have worked well in Saltaire.  I haven't noticed any dinosaurs lately.)

The tree was first brought to Britain in 1795 and was grown as an ornamental specimen tree in botanical gardens, becoming popular with the Victorians.  It is believed to have come by its name when a visitor to a garden in Cornwall remarked that "it would puzzle a monkey to climb that".  This tree in Saltaire, the only one in the village as far as I know, must be quite old and was probably planted quite early in Saltaire's history, in the late 1850s.  It must have had a great deal of novelty value at the time; the trees are still quite a rarity in domestic gardens.  It looks a beautifully healthy specimen.  If the Health and Safety people don't have it felled (as the needles are believed to be 'as sharp as syringes' and therefore a danger to children) then it might last a good few years yet.  Some of the native trees are thought to be 1200 years old!

18 comments:

  1. Interesting. I'd only ever seen massive old ones in Botanical gardens here and did not know they flowered. This one really is a lovely specimen, as you noted.

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  2. It sure is a puzzling tree and unusual to see in a small garden, but it has a lovely shape.

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  3. We have a lot of araucarias here. It's impressive to see how old this one can be , and all the things it probably saw

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  4. It's in lovely condition. We had one of these in our next-door neighbours garden for years, it was probably as big as this one. I love it!
    However when they moved a few years ago the next people had it cut down. So now all I can see is a 'stump' alas!

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  5. Whenever I am in the UK I always seek out these trees. I find them fascinating! This one is a particularly fine example.

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  6. A beautiful tree.
    I can imagine it decorated for Christmas.
    Costas

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  7. What an amazing tree! I don't think I'd want to be decorating it, however, with needles like those! Nice to look at.

    I was thinking about your mom this morning. I'm glad you can be with her.

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  8. Lovely specimen but still but a youngster by the look of it.I grew up here with one in the Southern Hemisphere, planted I believe and not left over form the age of the dinosaurs!
    I can vouch for the sharpness but I survived.If we remove all dangers from kids' lives how will they learn not to be wimps?

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  9. I deeply thank for your warm heart and thoughts...

    From Japan, ruma

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  10. I've heard of the monkey puzzle tree but had no idea they could thrive in the UK! The tree is lovely!

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  11. It is a beautiful tree and looks very healthy. There are a couple in gardens near me and I find them fascinating!

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  12. Fascinating tree, I looked at the close up of the link you provided and my those are some sharp looking needles! ~Lili

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  13. What a beauty! Great info too.

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  14. Very fine specimen! Good commentary too. We are learning new things from you every day!

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  15. I love Monkey Puzzle trees, that is one fine specimen!

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  16. I have a monkey puzzle tree in the front garden. It is a fantastic tree and looks awesome at Christmas with the lights on. Need welders gloves to do anything with it though (such as mow the lawn underneath it) as the 'leaves' if you can call them that, are savage!

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  17. I grew up in South London the garden had a Monkey Puzzle that was the tall 'branches at the top' type. We ran aboyt beneath this for 20 years and wee never troubled by the sharp leaves. I am a H&S profesional now and if ever anyone approaches your tree with a view to cut it on H&S grounds be assured its rubbish! The thought of anyone cutting these tree down makes me shudder.

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