Although the Monkey Puzzle tree or Chile pine is not something we tend to see much of, there are in fact quite of lot of them found around Great Britain. They tend to be grown in gardens, parks and often in the grounds of stately homes and universities.
This evergreen conifer is native to Argentina and Chile and grows to around 30m (sometimes up to 50m), but at a very slow rate. In appearance they look quite exotic, even somewhat prehistoric. It was introduced to England by Archibald Menzies in 1795. Menzies was a plant collector and naval surgeon.
The tree's most characteristic feature is its leaves. Each branch is clothed in sharply pointed, triangular green leaves. Mature plants may bear cones on the upper branches, male and female usually on separate trees*
The common name refers to the fact that the task of climbing this positively lethal tree, with its sharp branches and spiny leaves, would puzzle even a monkey!
The seeds can take many years to first appear, very often 30 years or so. They are not unlike large pine nuts, but with a less pungent flavour. The seeds are harvested in the autumn. They tend to be quite large, usually 2-3cm long. If kept in a cool dry environment they will last many months, making them the perfect nut for foraging!