Friday, July 30, 2010

Monkey Puzzle Trees, and a few coastal observations

I am a little obsessed with these trees, which are also called Chilean Pines or properly, Araucaria araucana. My husband loves them too, so whenever we see one in the landscape it’s like we’ve spotted a movie star, complete with pointing and lots of oohing and ahhing. Last week we made a short get-away trek to Long Beach, Washington, where there was an amazing quantity of these trees growing. I spotted this one on our way into town. The next day we walked the mile or two back to check it out…okay really we were walking back to a nursery I had seen on the way into town (that’s a vacation with a gardener) but the plan was that then we could walk back via the beach, see I hadn’t lost sight of what we were there for! Anyway here are close ups of this amazing tree. Look how they built the building around the tree!
And how the scales on the branches grow (I should call them leaves right? But they really seem more like scales)
Here are a couple of dried scales that had fallen on the ground.
You can see a couple of the naked stick-like branches they leave behind in this picture.
Here’s another tree. What I found really interesting about the trees in Long Beach is their generally smaller size. So often the ones we see in Portland are true towering giants. Are these stunted by the cool temps and salt air? Or were they all planted around the same time?
This mature Phormium clump was across the street. It made me realize how much I miss seeing them in Portland, after back to back bad winters you just don’t see clumps like this anymore. I saw a few others that were blooming but didn’t get the camera out in time.
There were a several huge Cordylines in town that looked like this one. Cold enough to kill the Cordy’s but not the Flax, interesting.
And here is definite proof we were at the beach.
Oyster shell mulch.
Another "at the beach" image…A truly weathered fence. Almost furry!
Cool huh? Although it looked like the owners were at work replacing it with a shiny new version.


  1. I prefer the old version of the fence more.
    I have yet to see a full grown monkey puzzle tree here in Florida, though the related bunya bunya seems to do okay. We also have "Australian pines" or Norfolk island pines further south. My fiance and I used to keep an eye out for the "toilet brush trees" when we traveled around the coast. She's tired of that game though, probably because I'm better at it.

  2. Wow, thanks for sharing those trees - I see why you ooh and aah over them!

  3. We freak out when we see a Monkey Puzzle tree too! Gotta love the Araucarias.

  4. The trees are amazing, I'm all to familiar with oyster mulch and oyster shells in the looking fence.

  5. We have some of those massive monkey puzzles in town, I always stop to admire them although I think they might be kind of hard to have in one's own garden. I heard that a lot of the big Seattle ones were from the World's Fair, but that could be incorrect. Very cool lichen fence. Too bad it's going down. Maybe they should salvage some of it and make a lichen garden? Glad you got away to the ocean, looks nice and cool and relaxing!

  6. Unless I'm imagining things, I believe I've been seeing dwarf monkey puzzles for sale at recent plant sales. I think someone had one at the Japanese Garden sale. I'm going to have to see if I took any pictures that prove or disprove my memory. I'll let you know if I find one

  7. The fence looks neat, but I wouldn't want to rub up against it!

    Monkey Tree's are cool. I would bet the ones you saw were all planted around the same time. They come in and out of fashion. We have a lot of large ones nearby in New Westminster, but most of the ones I see regularly are a lot younger.

  8. That is the biggest MPT (monkey puzzle tree) I have ever seen! I love those trees too, and I think part of the reason is because of it's name - Monkey Puzzle Tree!

  9. RFG, I would LOVE to see a Bunya-Bunya here in Portland, but I really doubt that will ever happen. Are the "toilet brush trees" Callistemon?

    Liza, thanks for stopping by! And wait until you see one in person!

    Megan, glad to know we are in good company.

    Darla, so that mulch is a common coastal thing? Is it good for the plants?

    Karen, I think you are right about the worlds fair correlation!

    Megan, yes please! I would love to know that such a thing exists.

    Laura, I think the lichen were pretty well attached to the fence. Unless it gives you the creeps!

    D+N, really? I need to give you a tour of the ones we've spotted here in NE Portland!

  10. That monkey tree is really awesome. So unusual. Your pictures are really great of it. I also like the old fence. But I guess they are afraid it will rot away on them.

  11. I love Monkey Puzzles. They are hardy here and there is a great specimen just a few blocks away at the Norfolk Zoo, yet I killed mine and it was not cheap, even with my discount.

  12. Where I grew up on the south West coast of Scotland, there were Monkey Puzzle trees growing well there, because of the temperate climate . I love these trees. Thanks for sharing these photos.

  13. Can I send you a photo we took of a tree in Seattle, to see if it is MPT? If so, where can I send? We were so intrigued by these — several in my son’s neighborhood... TY!

    1. Sure: spiky plants at gmail dot com (all one word, using the appropriate replacements).

  14. I am amazed with these trees I wish there was a spot for a photo


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