|Araucaria araucana subsp. var.||Monkey-puzzle|
Araucaria araucana (Pehuén or Monkey-puzzle) is the hardiest species in the conifer genus Araucaria. It is native to central Chile and west central Argentina, and is an evergreen tree growing to 40 m tall and 2 m trunk diameter. It is an example of a living fossil. It is considered as the national tree of Chile.
The leaves are thick, tough and scale like, triangular, 3-4 cm long, 1-3 cm broad at the base, and with razor-sharp edges and tip. They persist for 10-15 years or more, so cover most of the tree except for the older branches.
It is usually dioecious, with the male and female cones on separate trees, though occasional individuals bear cones of both sexes. The male (pollen) cones are oblong and cucumber-shaped, 4 cm long at first, expanding to 8-12 cm long by 5-6 cm broad at pollen release. Like all conifers it is wind pollinated. The female (seed) cones, which mature in autumn about 18 months after pollination, are globose, large, 12-20 cm diameter, and hold about 200 seeds. The cones disintegrate at maturity to release the 3-4 cm long nut-like seeds, which are then dispersed by jays and squirrels.
Its native habitat is the lower slopes of the Chilean and Argentinian south-central Andes, typically above 1000 m, in regions with heavy snowfall in winter. The weight of the snow breaks the older branches so the natural tree retains only a short crown of vegetation above a column trunk; quite different from the full appearance of this species in temperate gardens. It prefers well drained, slightly acidic, volcanic soil but will tolerate almost any soil type provided drainage is good.
It is a popular garden tree, planted for its unusual effect of the thick, 'reptilian' branches with a very symmetrical appearance. It prefers temperate oceanic climates with abundant rainfall, tolerating temperatures down to about −20 °C. It is far and away the hardiest member of its genus, and can grow well in western Europe (north to the Faroe Islands and Ålesundin western Norway), the west coast and locally on the east coast of North America (north to the Queen Charlotte Islands in Canada), and in New Zealand and southeastern Australia. It is tolerant of coastal salt spray, but does not like exposure to pollution.
The seeds are edible, similar to large pine nuts, and are extensively harvested in Chile. The tree has some potential to be a food crop in other areas in the future, thriving in climates with cool oceanic summers (e.g. western Scotland) where other nut crops do not grow well. A group of six female trees with one male for pollination could yield several thousand seeds per year. Since the cones drop, harvesting is easy. The tree however does not yield seeds until it is around 30-40 years old, which discourages investment in planting orchards (although yields at maturity can be immense); once established, it can live possibly as long as 1,000 years (Gymnosperm Database).
|Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture|
Araucaria imbricata, Pav. Monkey Puzzle. A striking tree of pyramidal habit: branches generally in 5's, at first horizontal, with upward-curving (sometimes downward-curving) tips, but finally becoming much deflexed; branchlets in opposite pairs, curved upward when young, and continuing to grow until several feet long when adult: Lvs. imbricated and persisting, even on the trunk, ovate-lanceolate, very stiff, leathery, and sharp-pointed, 2 in. long on the primary st. and branches, 1 in. long on the branchlets, slightly concave at the base, bright green on both sides: cone 6-8 in. diam. Western slope of the Andes in Chile, reaching a height of 100 ft.— Hardy in the S. This is the species which is grown in the open in England and Ireland. The hardiest species in cult. Thrives well in a heavy loamy soil in a moist valley or position sheltered from rough winds in mild climates. The branches are heavy and rather brittle and the beauty and symmetry is soon destroyed if planted in an exposed position. The timber is valuable. The seeds constitute the chief food of the aborigines in some sections of S. Amer. Var. platifolia, Hort., is a form with very broad Lvs.
It is hardy to zone 8 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf all year, in flower from June to July, and the seeds ripen from September to October. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Wind. The plant is not self-fertile.
The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame or it can be stored cool and moist then sown February in a greenhouse[78, 80]. Although the plants are quite cold-tolerant, the root systems of seedling plants can be damaged in spells of very cold weather so give some extra protection at this time if necessary. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 2 months at 15°c. As soon as they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots. The plants have a rather sparse root system and are best placed in their final positions as soon as possible. Give them some protection for their first winter[K]. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, May to July in a cold frame. Only epicormic side-shoots should be used, normal side-shoots do not develop properly. An epicormic shoot is one that develops from a dormant bud on the main trunk of the tree[K].
Pests and diseases
- Plants for a Future - some creative commons text was used from PFAF.
- Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture, by L. H. Bailey, MacMillan Co., 1963