Araucaria araucana, (Monkey Puzzle, Chile Pine. No.267 of the trees at Priestfield) Native of southern Andes in Chile and Argentina, first introduced into Europe around 1795.
Commonly called Monkey Puzzle as the sharp leaves are said to perplex and foil even the most determined monkey.
They have a vulnerable status according to the IUCN Red List. The species was declared a Natural Monument in Chile in 1990. Classified as coniferous, it is monopodial ie lateral branches grow out of 1 main stem. Leaves are large, thick and sharp and stay on the tree for up to 15 years. Male and female cones grow on separate trees.
Monkey Puzzles will live for about 100 years and reach 50m in height. They grow best in stabilised volcanic ash, but a deep, moist loam will suit them so we have planted Priestfields specimen in the deep soil of the valley on the north east side of the site.
No. 267 was planted in 2015 as a replacement for no.34, which died of a bacterial canker 3 years ago. We believe that Priestfield trees numbered below 100 are from the original plantings circa the first quarter of the last century, so no.34 did reach a good age.