Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Monkey Puzzle

Here is a conifer on the very start of its journey when instead of looking down we will be looking up to eighty, a hundred or more feet.  This is the Chilean Pine which used to be abundant in that country but a million have been burnt in forest fires as the climate becomes hotter and drier and the fires become more frequent.  The English speaking world knows the tree more familiarly as the Monkey Puzzle and you can judge its hight here below by the house in the background..
The seeds of the tree are edible (although do not appear until the trees are 30-40 years old). When the botanist Archibald Menzies was served them as a desert at a dinner given by the Governor of Chile in 1795 he pocketed a few and grew them on the ship back to Europe, of the resulting 5 healthy plants two were planted at Kew Gardens.  Fast forward to 1850 and Charles Austin (a barrister who made his fortune during the Victorian Railway Mania era) was being shown around a garden in Bodmin, Cornwall and made the comment "It would puzzle a monkey to climb that" and the tree became popularly known as the Monkey Puzzler and then the current name of Monkey Puzzle.  The French call them d√©sespoir des singes (monkey's despair)
Like the set of four trees above most were planted in the landscape gardens of large houses in the 19th Century and these trees from the Jurrasic era (sometimes called a living fossil) were quite a status symbol.  In the 1900s and especially the 1920s they became a very popular plant for the suburban garden where they just grew and grew.  I seem to remember there used to be a lot more around but perhaps their large size and sharp pointed leaves may have overwhelmed the owners, or maybe I just found them fascinating as a child so noticed them more.  Today a lot of these long lived trees have tree preservation orders on them so they cannot be cut down and remain to entrance us.  Perhaps I am wrong about the numbers for Sarah Horton in a labour of love is mapping Monkey Puzzles here  and blogs about it here joined by her Monkey Puzzle agents to potentially photograph and map the Monkey Puzzle world, although as she is based in Liverpool there may be a British Isles bias.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at M here 
 

      

11 comments:

Melody Steenkamp said...

Wonderful trees.... they grow here to... but very very slowly...

Thank you for participating in our weekly Photo-meme. Hope to see you next week, and weeks to come, again.

Have a nice abc-week / -day
♫ M e l ☺ d y ♫

Berowne said...

A post full of fascinating info; thanx so much.

Photo Cache said...

Very interesting. I haven't seen one in person.

My ABC WEDNESDAY

Hildred said...

Very impressive trees - have never seen one in British Columbia, but perhaps on the Coast?

Hildred said...

Very impressive trees - have never seen one in British Columbia, but perhaps on the Coast?

Bikramjit Singh Mann said...

wow.. beautiful trees .. thank for sharing


Bikram's

Roger Owen Green said...

nifty trees!

ROG, ABCW-

Leslie: said...

Like Hildred (above) I've never seen them around here. Do the branches automatically fall off as the tree grows taller?

Leslie
abcw team

Joy said...

Yes Hildred I think coastal BC, looking on the Monkey Puzzle map, definitely in Vancouver.
Yes Leslie they loose their lower branches and similarly in their native country have bare trunks for nearly half their hight. Younger trees will have more lower branches but the ones I show I think will be a reasonable age. Good growing conditions are pure air, sunshine, abundant moisture (we have lots of that) and a well-drained subsoil.

Shammickite said...

I always looked out for monkey puzzle trees when I lived in UK, and when I visit now, I think they are so interesting. There was a big one on the way to my cousin's house, and we always said "turn right at the monkey puzzle tree!" I don;t think they would survive the canadian winter where I live.

Rebeckah Leatherman said...

I never heard this story. What darling little trees. Thank you so much for sharing.