Long Lasting Monkey Puzzle Trees
Monkey puzzle trees are highly distinctive, with mature trees possessing a tall, straight trunks and an umbrella of branches at the crown. The monkey puzzle tree is an evergreen conifer native to the highlands of Chile and Argentina. It was originally imported to Europe in the 1800s, and became a popular addition to botanical gardens because of its unusual and distinctive appearance. While trees vary, the monkey puzzle tree can exceed 131 feet (40 meters) in height. It has triangular-shaped leaves that resemble sharp scales. The small leaves cluster along the branches, making the trees and branches rather difficult to handle without incurring painful injuries. In nature, it prefers high elevations that receive winter snowfall. As the snow gathers on the older low branches, it breaks them off, leaving the tree with a crown of branches at the top and a smooth trunk below. When cultivated, the lower branches are allowed to remain, making the trees much bushier than it is in nature.
Higher elevations are the preferred growing environment for the monkey puzzle trees, which also appreciates temperate climates such as those in areas near the ocean. The plant does well in USDA zones seven and above, and is both frost and drought tolerant. Because of the spiny leaves, the trees may not be the best choice for a small garden, but it can make an interesting decorative addition in an area with plenty of space to grow. The edible seeds can be harvested and used like nuts, or used to sprout new trees, which take around 40 years to mature.