Organism of the Day: Monkey Puzzle Tree
Behold, the Monkey Puzzle Tree!
The Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria aracana) grows in central and southern Chile, and a little bit of western Argentina. It has several different names, but Monkey Puzzle is the most common. It is so called due to a comment by an Englishman when he first saw it, observing that even a monkey would be puzzled climbing this tree. The tree branches sort of haphazardly, and the branches (below) are covered in spike-like leaves a few centimeters long in a whorl pattern. The leaves can live for 10-15 years. The tree produces male and female cones on separate plants (dioecious), and can grow to be over 100 feet tall (one grew 150 feet). They have scale like bark, leaving some with the impression of reptile skin. It is SUPER old, evolutionarily speaking (although they can live to be 800 years old). It is a living fossil, and we start to see it appear 300-250 MILLION years ago (for the record, dinosaurs didn’t even exist yet), and is relatively unchanged since then. Some botanists consider it the oldest conifer alive. Being so unique and special, it is the National Tree of Chile.