Araucaria araucana

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Araucaria araucana, commonly called the monkey puzzle tree, monkey tail tree, piñonero, pewen or Chilean pine, is an evergreen tree growing to a trunk diameter of 1–1.5 m (3.3–4.9 ft) and a height of 30–40 m (98–131 ft). It is native to central and southern Chile and western Argentina.[3] It is the hardiest species in the conifer genus Araucaria. Because of the prevalence of similar species in ancient prehistory, it is sometimes called an animate fossil. It is also the national tree of Chile. Its conservation status was changed to Endangered by the IUCN in 2013 due to the dwindling population caused by logging, forest fires, and grazing.[1]

Araucaria araucana
CITES Appendix I (CITES)[2]
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Gymnospermae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Araucariales
Family: Araucariaceae
Genus: Araucaria
Section: A. sect. Araucaria
A. araucana
Binomial name
Araucaria araucana
(Molina) K. Koch


The leaves of A. araucana
A young specimen

The leaves are thick, tough, and scale-like, triangular, 3–4 cm (1+141+12 in) long, 1–3 cm (121+14 in) broad at the base, and with sharp edges and tips. According to the scientist Christopher Lusk, the leaves have an average lifespan of 24 years[4] and 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 (1+12 in) long at first, expanding to 8–12 cm (3–4+12 in) long by 5–6 cm (2–2+12 in) broad at pollen release. It is wind pollinated. The female (seed) cones, which mature in autumn about 18 months after pollination, are globose, large, 12–20 cm (4+12–8 in) in diameter, and hold about 200 seeds. The cones disintegrate at maturity to release the 3–4 cm (1+141+12 in) long nut-like seeds.

The thick bark of Araucaria araucana may be an adaptation to wildfire.[5]


Distribution map of A. araucana in central Chile

The tree's native habitat is the lower slopes of the Chilean and Argentine south-central Andes, approximately between 1,000 m (3,300 ft) and 1,700 m (5,600 ft).[6] In the Chilean Coast Range A. araucana can be found as far south as Villa Las Araucarias (latitude 38°30' S) at an altitude of 640 m asl.[7] Juvenile trees exhibit a broadly pyramidal or conical habit which naturally develops into the distinctive umbrella form of mature specimens as the tree ages.[8] It prefers well-drained, slightly acidic, volcanic soil, but will tolerate almost any soil type provided it drains well. Seedlings are often not competitive enough to survive unless grown in a canopy gap or exposed isolated area. It is almost never found together with Chusquea culeou, Nothofagus dombeyi, and Nothofagus pumilio, because they typically outcompete A. araucana.[9]

Seed dispersal


Araucaria araucana is a masting species, and rodents are important consumers and dispersers of its seeds. The long-haired grass mouse, Abrothrix longipilis, is the most important animal responsible for dispersing the seeds of A. araucana. This rodent buries seeds whole in locations favorable for seed germination, unlike other animals.[10]

Another important seed dispersal agent is the parakeet species Enicognathus ferrugineus.[9] Adult trees are highly resistant to large ecological disturbances caused by volcanic activity, after events like these the parakeets play their role by dispersing the seeds far from affected territory.[9]



Logging, long a major threat, was finally banned in 1990.[11] Large fires burned thousands of acres of Araucaria forest in 2001–2002,[11] and areas of national parks have also burned, destroying trees over 1300 years old.[1] Overgrazing and invasive trees are also threats.[1][11] Extensive human harvesting of piñones (Araucaria seeds) can prevent new trees from growing.[1] A Global Trees Campaign project that planted 2000 trees found a 90 percent 10-year survival rate.[11]

Another major threat to the survival of A. araucana, is the presence of non-native seed eating species, in particular mammals, which have been shown to severely restrict the reproduction of the tree in comparison to native seed eaters.[12] However it is still unclear as to how large a role these invasive species play in threatening this species of Tree. One study in particular found that native species played a larger role in preventing reproduction through seed destruction.[13] However this may be due to the relatively recent introduction of the selected species, causing their population to be smaller than other invasive species.

A study conducted found that cattle ranching by small landowners and larger timber companies within the range of A. araucana severely affects regeneration of seedlings.[14]

Cultivation and uses


Araucaria araucana is a popular garden tree, planted for the unusual effect of its thick, "reptilian" branches with very symmetrical appearance. It prefers temperate climates with abundant rainfall, tolerating temperatures down to about −20 °C (−4 °F). It is far and away the hardiest member of its genus, and can grow well in western and central Europe (north to the Faroe Islands and Smøla[15] in western Norway), the west coast of North America (north to Baranof Island in Alaska), and locally on the east coast, as far north as Long Island, and in New Zealand, southeastern Australia and south east Ireland. It is tolerant of coastal salt spray, but does not tolerate exposure to pollution.[citation needed]

The piñones are similar to pine nuts, but larger; these roasted seeds are 3 cm and 5 cm long, from two different cultivars.

Its seeds (Mapudungun: ngulliw, Spanish: piñones) are edible,[11] similar to large pine nuts, and are harvested by indigenous peoples in Argentina and Chile.[16] 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.[17] 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 to 40 years old, which discourages investment in planting orchards (although yields at maturity can be immense); once established, individuals can achieve ages beyond 1,000 years.[18][19] Pest losses to rodents and feral Sus scrofa limits the yields for human consumption and forage fattening of livestock by A. araucana mast.[20] A. araucana has a high degree of inter-year variability in mast volume, and this variation is synchronous within a given area.[21] This evolved to take advantage of predator satiety.[21]

Once valued because of its long, straight trunk, its current rarity and vulnerable status mean its wood is now rarely used; it is also sacred to some indigenous Mapuche.[22] Timber from these trees, was used for railway sleepers in order to access many industrial areas around the port of Chile. Before the tree became protected by law in 1971, lumber mills in Araucanía Region specialized in Chilean pine.

The species is protected under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meaning international trade (including in parts and derivatives) is regulated by the CITES permitting system and commercial trade in wild sourced specimens is prohibited.[2]

Many young specimens and seeds were brought or sent back to the UK by Cornish miners in the nineteenth century, during the Cornish diaspora, and as a result Cornwall is reckoned to have a high genetic diversity of the species. Christopher Nigel Page, a botanist working at Camborne School of Mines, University of Exeter planted specimens in disused china clay pits in the St Austell area as part of his research into regreening former extractive minerals sites, which he presented in 2017 in the UK Parliament, with Professor Hylke Glass, also of CSM, as co-author.[23]


A monkey puzzle tree at Salesforce Park, San Francisco
The silhouette of the araucaria is very recognizable and has become a symbol for the southern regions of Argentina and Chile. For example, araucarias appear on the coats of arms of Neuquén Province and Araucanía Region.

First identified by Europeans in Chile in the 1780s,[24][25] it was named Pinus araucana by Molina in 1782.[26] In 1789, de Jussieu erected a new genus called Araucaria based on the species,[27] and in 1797, Pavón published a new description of the species which he called Araucaria imbricata (an illegitimate name, as it did not use Molina's older species epithet).[28] Finally, in 1873, after several further redescriptions, Koch published the combination Araucaria araucana,[29] validating Molina's species name. The name araucana is derived from the native Araucanians who used the nuts (seeds) of the tree in Chile – a group of Araucanians living in the Andes, the Pehuenches, owe their name to their diet based on the harvesting of the A. araucaria seeds; hence from pewen or its Hispanicized spelling pehuen which means Araucaria and che means people in Mapudungun. They believe the pewen was given by a deity or gwenachen to nourish their offspring; many pewen gathering festivals (ngillatun) are celebrated in both Chile and Argentina in gratitude to the tree's sustenance.[30]

The origin of the popular English language name "monkey puzzle" lies in its early cultivation in Britain in about 1850, when the species was still very rare in gardens and not widely known. Sir William Molesworth, the owner of a young specimen at Pencarrow garden near Bodmin in Cornwall, was showing it to a group of friends, when one of them – the noted barrister and Benthamist Charles Austin – remarked, "It would puzzle a monkey to climb that".[31] As the species had no existing popular name, first "monkey puzzler", then "monkey puzzle" stuck. Pencarrow in the current century has an avenue of mature Monkey Puzzles.[32]



The nearest extant relative is Araucaria angustifolia, a South American Araucaria from Brazil which differs in the width of the leaves. Members of other sections of the genus Araucaria occur in Pacific Islands and in Australia, and include Araucaria cunninghamii, hoop pine, Araucaria heterophylla, the Norfolk Island pine and Araucaria bidwillii, bunya pine.[citation needed]

The recently found 'Wollemi pine', Wollemia, discovered in southeast Australia, is classed in the plant family Araucariaceae. Their common ancestry dates to a time when Australia, Antarctica, and South America were linked by land – all three continents were once part of the supercontinent known as Gondwana.[citation needed]



  1. ^ a b c d e Premoli, A.; Quiroga, P.; Gardner, M. (2013). "Araucaria araucana". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2013: e.T31355A2805113. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLTS.T31355A2805113.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Appendices | CITES". Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  3. ^ Native areas Archived 16 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Kew Royal Botanic Gardens. Retrieved: 2012-09-20.
  4. ^ Lusk, Christopher H. (2001). "Leaf life spans of some conifers of the temperate forests of South America" (PDF). Revista Chilena de Historia Natural. 74 (3): 711–718. doi:10.4067/S0716-078X2001000300017. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  5. ^ Veblen, Thomas T.; Kitzberger, Thomas; Burns, Bruce R.; Rebertus, Alan J. (1995). "Perturbaciones y dinámica de regeneración en bosques andinos del sur de Chile y Argentina" [Natural disturbance and regeneration dynamics in Andean forests of southern Chile and Argentina]. In Armesto, Juan J.; Villagrán, Carolina; Arroyo, Mary Kalin (eds.). Ecología de los bosques nativos de Chile (in Spanish). Santiago de Chile: Editorial Universitaria. pp. 169–198. ISBN 978-9561112841.
  6. ^ Puchi, Paulina F.; Camarero, J. Julio; Battipaglia, Giovanna; Carrer, Marco (December 2021). "Retrospective analysis of wood anatomical traits and tree-ring isotopes suggests site-specific mechanisms triggering Araucaria araucana drought-induced dieback". Global Change Biology. 27 (24): 6394–6408. doi:10.1111/gcb.15881. ISSN 1354-1013. PMID 34514686.
  7. ^ "Villa las Araucarias" (in Spanish). Ministry of National Assets. Retrieved 8 May 2023.
  8. ^ Michael A. Arnold (2004). "Araucaria Araucana" (PDF). Landscape Plants For Texas And Environs 3rd. Aggie Horticulture. ISBN 978-1588747464. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  9. ^ a b c Finckh, Manfred; Paulsch, Axel (November 1995). "Araucaria araucana — Die ökologische Strategie einer Reliktkonifere". Flora. 190 (4): 365–382. doi:10.1016/s0367-2530(17)30679-5. ISSN 0367-2530.
  10. ^ Shepherd, J.D. & R.S. Ditgen, 2013. Rodent handling of Araucaria araucana seeds. Austral Ecology, 38: 23–32.
  11. ^ a b c d e "Monkey Puzzle". Global Trees.
  12. ^ Tella, José L.; Lambertucci, Sergio A.; Speziale, Karina L.; Hiraldo, Fernando (April 2016). "Large-scale impacts of multiple co-occurring invaders on monkey puzzle forest regeneration, native seed predators and their ecological interactions". Global Ecology and Conservation. 6: 1–15. doi:10.1016/j.gecco.2016.01.001. hdl:11336/60818. ISSN 2351-9894.
  13. ^ Rosa, Clarissa; Hegel, Carla Grasiele Zanin; Passamani, Marcelo (4 December 2020). "Seed removal of Araucaria angustifolia by native and invasive mammals in protected areas of Atlantic Forest". Biota Neotropica. 21: e20201111. doi:10.1590/1676-0611-BN-2020-1111. ISSN 1676-0611.
  14. ^ Zamorano-Elgueta, Carlos; Cayuela, Luis; González-Espinosa, Mario; Lara, Antonio; Parra-Vázquez, Manuel R. (1 August 2012). "Impacts of cattle on the South American temperate forests: Challenges for the conservation of the endangered monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) in Chile". Biological Conservation. 152: 110–118. Bibcode:2012BCons.152..110Z. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2012.03.037. ISSN 0006-3207.
  15. ^ "Araucaria araucana in Ålesund, Norway". Scanpalm. Archived from the original on 9 October 2009. Retrieved 27 June 2009.
  16. ^ Gallo, L., F. Izquierdo, L.J. Sanguinetti, A. Pinna, G. Siffredi, J. Ayesa, C. Lopez, A. Pelliza, N. Strizler, M. Gonzales Peñalba, L. Maresca and L. Chauchard. 2004. Araucaria araucana forest genetic resources in Argentina. Pages 105-132 in Barbara Vinceti, Weber Amaral and Brien Meilleur (eds). Challenges in managing forest genetic resources for livelihoods: examples from Argentina and Brazil. International Plant Genetic Resources Institute. 271 pp.
  17. ^ "It's hard to be leaf but Scotland can save the monkey puzzle tree from extinction". 28 November 2017.
  18. ^ Lüning, Sebastian; Gałka, Mariusz; Bamonte, Florencia Paula; Rodríguez, Felipe García; Vahrenholt, Fritz (2019). "The Medieval Climate Anomaly in South America" (PDF). Quaternary International. 508. International Union for Quaternary Research (Elsevier): 70–87. Bibcode:2019QuInt.508...70L. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2018.10.041. ISSN 1040-6182. S2CID 133405753.
  19. ^ Aguilera-Betti, Isabella; Muñoz, Ariel A.; Stahle, Daniel; Figueroa, Gino; Duarte, Fernando; González-Reyes, Álvaro; Christie, Duncan; Lara, Antonio; González, Mauro E.; Sheppard, Paul R.; Sauchyn, David; Moreira-Muñoz, Andrés; Toledo-Guerrero, Isadora; Olea, Matías; Apaz, Pablo; Fernandez, Alfonso (2017). "The First Millennium-Age Araucaria Araucana in Patagonia". Tree-Ring Research. 73 (1). Tree-Ring Society: 53–56. doi:10.3959/1536-1098-73.1.53. ISSN 1536-1098. S2CID 133405753.
  20. ^ Sanguinetti, Javier; Kitzberger, Thomas (10 May 2009). "Factors controlling seed predation by rodents and non-native Sus scrofa in Araucaria araucana forests: potential effects on seedling establishment". Biological Invasions. 12 (3). Springer Science and Business Media LLC: 689–706. doi:10.1007/s10530-009-9474-8. ISSN 1387-3547. S2CID 21054740.
  21. ^ a b Sanguinetti, Javier; Kitzberger, Thomas (6 January 2008). "Patterns and mechanisms of masting in the large-seeded southern hemisphere conifer Araucaria araucana". Austral Ecology. 33 (1). Wiley Publishing: 78–87. Bibcode:2008AusEc..33...78S. doi:10.1111/j.1442-9993.2007.01792.x. ISSN 1442-9985.
  22. ^ Anna Lewington & Edward Parker (1999). Ancient Trees. Collins & Brown. ISBN 978-1-85585-974-6.
  23. ^ "Regreening of barren lands as new biodiversity reserves" (PDF). Science in Parliament. Summer 2017. Retrieved 13 February 2024.
  24. ^ The tree was first mentioned in 1780 by the Spaniard Francisco Dendariarena. See:
  25. ^ However, there are claims that the monkey puzzle tree was introduced to Europe after an expedition by the Dutch in 1642 from Brazil to Valdivia, Chile. See:
  26. ^ Molina, Giovanni Ignazio (1782). Saggio sulla storia naturale del Chili [Essay on the natural history of Chile] (in Italian and Latin). Bologna, (Italy): S. Tomasso d'Aquino. p. 355. Available at: Real Jardín Botánico (Royal Botanical Garden), CSIC, Madrid, Spain. Archived 8 November 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ Jussieu, Antoine Laurent de (1789). Genera plantarum: secundum ordines naturales disposita, … [The genera of plants: arranged according to the natural orders, …] (in Latin). Paris, France: Herissant. pp. 413–414.
  28. ^ Pavón, Joseph (1797). "Disertacion botanica sobre los generos Tovaria, Actinophyllum, Araucaria y Salmia, con la reunion de algunos que Linneo publicó como distintos" [Botanical dissertation on the genera Tovaria, Actinophyllum, Araucaria and Salmia, with the recombining of some [genera] that Linnaeus had published as [being] distinct]. Memorias de la Real Academia Médica de Madrid (Memoirs of the Royal Medical Academy of Madrid) (in Spanish). 1: 191–204. ; see p. 199.
  29. ^ Koch, Karl (1873). Dendrologie. Bäume, Sträucher und Halbsträucher, welche in Mittel- und Nord-Europa im Freien kultivirt werden [Dendrology. Trees, shrubs, and subshrubs which are cultivated outdoors in Middle and Northern Europe.] (in German). Vol. 2, part 2. Erlangen, Germany: Ferdinand Enke. p. 206.
  30. ^ Canale, Antonella; Ladio, Ana H. (March 2020). "La recolección de piñones de pewen (Araucaria araucana): Una situación significativa que conecta a niños mapuches con la naturaleza" [Harvesting pewen (Araucaria araucana, monkey puzzle tree) seeds: a significant situation that connects Mapuche children with nature]. Gaia Scientia (in Spanish). 14 (1): 14. doi:10.22478/ufpb.1981-1268.2020v14n1.47620. hdl:11336/108775. S2CID 226066386.
  31. ^ Wilson, Matthew (5 July 2013). "Riddle of how the monkey puzzle tree came to be a UK favourite". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 10 December 2022. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  32. ^ Alan Mitchell (1996). Alan Mitchell's Trees of Britain. Collins. ISBN 978-0-00-219972-8.