Monkey puzzles: an iconic tree under threat

The monkey puzzle tree is under threat in its native Chile, but UK gardeners can help. Robbie Blackhall-Miles explains how

Listen to Robbie Blackhall-Miles talk about monkey puzzles in our new podcast on trees


I sat in a state of dismay as I read about the forest fires threatening Chile. Climate change has been causing the country’s Araucanía region to become increasingly hotter and drier and the forest fires it sees to become ever more frequent. The impact is being felt greatly by the native monkey puzzle trees, Araucaria araucana; over 1 million of them have been burned in the most recent fire that spread through Chile’s China Muerta National Park. The thought that these trees, some more than 1,000 years old, could be wiped out in a moment fills me with anguish; especially as I know that the ones that are left cover a tiny area; only a quarter of the size of London.*

My life has been influenced greatly by these trees. Growing up in a 1920s semi-detached house with a huge monkey puzzle in the garden instigated my interest in plant life. The idea that a plant family could have survived on this planet since the Jurassic era sparked the imagination of a very young me and led to my lifelong interest in the world’s plants and their evolution.

They don’t just tell a story of plant evolution either. They tell a story of adventure and war and the fate of British society.

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