• In Chile the tree is called the Pehuén and is sacred to the local Pehuenche people: its seeds are an ancient staple of their diet.
  • The tree possibly gained its name because it would be a real puzzle for monkeys to climb up its whorls of spiny leaves, but there are no monkeys in Chile!
  • The tree was alive 200 million years ago and rubbed shoulders with the dinosaurs. Its spine-like needles acted as protection from ancient grazing animals now long extinct.
  • It can live for 1,000 years and grows to 50m high with a trunk diameter of over 3m. Its large seeds, pinones, take two years to mature.
  • It grows on the slopes of rocky volcanoes and its bark is fire resistant, so ‘islands’ of trees can even survive lava flows!

Where it grows

From the Chilean Coastal Range (Coastal Cordillera) of mountains to the Andes mountains in Argentina. It thrives in well-drained, slightly acidic, volcanic soil but will tolerate almost any soil type providing it drains well. It is usually found above 1000m altitude in its natural habitat.

Common uses

The monkey puzzle was first used extensively to make railway sleepers for access to the coal fields, steel works, paper mills and ceramics industries that built up around Concepción, the port at the industrial heart of Chile. Later the timber was used for general carpentry, ladders, skis, piano interiors, oars, rulers and even aeroplanes. In the UK, the monkey puzzle became an archetypal Victorian park tree.

Conservation story

These trees have been heavily logged for over a century for their fine knot-free timber. In 1976 they were declared 'natural monuments' and their felling strictly prohibited. National nature reserves were set up to protect them, but they are still under threat, and listed as 'endangered' on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Global Red List of Conifers.

Wildlife facts

The tree is home to the slender-billed parakeet and over 70 types of insects that live nowhere else on earth, but no monkeys!

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Is it safe to trim the bottom

Is it safe to trim the bottom of the tree of its branches i frightened encase I harm my tree??
Submitted by Gail Roberts on

Hi Gail, It's probably best

eden project's picture
Hi Gail, It's probably best to leave the branches: they will fall of their own accord.
Submitted by eden project on

Monkey puzzle seeds

I have a monkey puzzle tree and the female cones have been present for over a year. One has now split apart and the seeds have fallen. As there are no other tree close by will thses germinate and are they worth collecting
Submitted by Mrs S Brown on

Monkey Puzzle Tree

Hi, we have a monkey puzzle tree approx 150years old, this year a large number of the branches have turned very yellow and then quickly browned. Previous years we have seen the normal browning and loss of branches?
Submitted by Andrew Nicol on

Monkey Puzzle Tree

Hi my parents have a 50ish year old monkey puzzle tree which is 50ish feet high and is weeping a whitish sap of the base of the trunk and a reddish one further up in cracks in the bark - also a branch which was cut ff had a brown discolouration. Is it time to cut it down?
Submitted by Janet Vowles on

Falling Leaves.

I have a Monkey puzzle tree that is at least 100 years old. I live in Surrey. During the past week the tree has been losing its 'leaves'in huge quantities and they are newish leaves not the usual dark brown ones but rich deep tan colour. I am concerned that the tree is under stress or diseased and needs attention, please can you advise. Thanks
Submitted by Niki Jarvis on

Monkey Puzzle Tree

I have a 3 month old Monkey Puzzle Tree. My landscaper planted it for us in the center of my yard. We had a very hot summer on Long Island, NY. We also had a micro burst (mini tornado in the area, so we had bad winds in early August. The poor little tree was really exposed to a lot of wind. Now about 3 weeks later the bottom branches are all brown and looks like it's making it's way up the tree. The top of the tree still looks ok, but I asked my local nursery and they tell me my tree is dying. Is this trure? Should I have my landscaper replace this tree with a different tree or should I try to save it. I'm so upset over this. I really love this tree. Please help.
Submitted by Ann Thomen on

monkey puzzle tree

hi i have just got one and planted it and it is brown.do they have seasons and does it take a while for it to establish.
Submitted by alison gawthorpe on

Monkey puzzle tree

I have had my monkey puzzle tree for approximately 30 years. I have just noticed towards the top of the tree there are round "things" which look like coconuts please tell me what they are. Thank you
Submitted by Linda Raw on

Monkey puzzle tree

My hubby has just brought me a tree for xmas its about 12" tall so cute. Do I leave it outside in its pot or bring it in for the winter? our house is quite cool I cant find any info any where how to look after them. thanks
Submitted by Sharron Sibson on


eden project's picture
They are pretty tough, and should be able to handle it outside, although this depends on where you live, if you live outside of the arctic/ antartic circles you should be fine!
Submitted by eden project on