This is a new project this year, to create my own small monkey puzzle wood. I started off with 12 seeds at Christmas 2021 and now we have got a small cohort of plants on my window sill.
Please watch the video series to see how they are going on and my Araucaria araucana fair as they grow. Also it is amazing that a 20cm plant can cost around £35 to they can be worth growing on!
This is a selection of information I have gained about Monkey Puzzles, I am learning too so I will add as they grow.
The monkey puzzle tree has shiny, tough foliage with spiky, sharp tips that grow upward in whorls. With an open and airy habit, large cones appear on both male and female specimens.
The plant is actually very easy to grown. I simply made some small pots of acidic compost up and soaked the nuts overnight is water. Then pushed them half in the soil at 45 degrees. Then put a poly bag OR small propagator to raise the humidity and kept them damp for around two months. They grow quite well, but you must not touch them even a little bit. Eventually you will see the seed get pushed up. You much wait and wait and wait! Never touch them as this kills the roots and they really don’t like this. Watch the videos and learn from my mistakes!
You should not prune growing branches when caring for a monkey puzzle tree. The exception will be when lower branches begin dying off later in the plant’s life. These should be removed. When growing monkey puzzles in containers, repotting may be necessary in a few years. Move to a bigger container and consider lightly pruning the roots before repotting to limit growth of this large tree if required
As for its common name, “monkey puzzle”, it comes from the comment of British barrister Charles Austin in the mid 19th century. Upon seeing a monkey puzzle tree, only recently introduced to gardens at that time, he remarked “It would puzzle a monkey to climb that.” It quickly became known as the monkey puzzler, then finally the monkey puzzle tree or just monkey puzzle. There are no monkeys in the part of South America where the tree grows naturally!
The monkey puzzle produces at large edible pinion (nut) and it fact both parts of its botanical name, Araucaria araucana, refer indirectly to that, since it is named for the Araucanians, a Chilean people for whom monkey puzzle pinions were a staple food. There was even a project to plant monkey puzzle orchards in Scotland, where the tree grows well, but the fact that you have to wait 40 years before the trees begin to really produce a good quantity of pinions finally discouraged the promoters from going ahead with their idea.
Mature female specimens (the species is usually dioecious, with separate male and female plants) produce a huge prickly cone up to 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter. But don’t worry that it will drop on your head as you pass underneath: instead it disintegrates when it matures, dropping the pinions to the ground. In the wild, birds and rodents are responsible for dispersing the seeds, thus ensuring the survival of the species.
And it’s not just the pinions that are useful: monkey puzzle wood was long used as a fuel and building material in Chile, but the species has been protected there since 1979, since so many of monkey puzzle forests were cleared for agriculture in the past that it is now threatened in the wild… and Chile is taking protecting this tree very seriously. When you think about the trunks and how long and straight they are you can see how many ships used them for masts.