Monkey-puzzle   Araucaria araucana

Origin: a native of Chile and Argentina, this geologically ancient tree was introduced in 1795 by Archibald Menzies. In its natural habitat it grows in hill country and on volcanic slopes up to 1500m where it may reach a height of 50m. It is common all over the British Isles but grows best in the west.

Monkey-puzzle tree

Monkey-puzzle bark

Monkey-puzzle branch

Trees vary in breadth but invariably have a straight trunk up to 30m in this area. The branches, which are arranged in whorls around the trunk, are not produced annually and growth can stop for the winter. Lower branches can fall off the trunk leaving scars. This gives the tree a distinctive domed shape (the tree illustrated is at Hodnet Hall, UK). The leaves are thick and leathery with very sharp tips. The female cones can be some 15cm across, ripening in two years. The nuts look rather like Brazil nuts.

At Keele : One young tree by the library; compartment 30E; square M9.

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