The Monkey Puzzle is native to the south-central Andes, the main habitat region being situated at latitudes between 37.5 and 39.5ºS. It is found mainly on the Chilean side, typically above 1000m. The climate is mild temperate and annual rainfall is 1250-2000mm (in one locality up to 4000mm).
In their native habitat Monkey Puzzle trees can grow up to 48m high and live for over 1200 years. Mature trees produce large cones, each of which contains up to 200 nuts. The nuts are both tasty and nutritious and have been long prized as a food by indigenous peoples. In the wild, trees begin to produce nuts at around 25-40 years. However, there is strong evidence that cultivated trees begin flowering much earlier in life (early flowering in a common phenomena in cultivated seed-grown trees and may be partly due to root stress during the first few years). The first cones have been recorded on some cultivated Monkey Puzzle trees at around 15 years.
Popular as an ornamental tree, the Monkey Puzzle has been planted in many northern hemisphere countries and is found growing well as far north as 63ºN in western Norway. It will tolerate wet maritime climates, salt exposure, and winter temperatures down to -20°C.
The trees are dioecious, meaning the female and male reproductive parts are on different trees. The trees offered here are seed-grown and will have female and male in approximately similar proportions. There is no way of determining the gender of the tree until flowering begins. For reliable nut production, at least six trees should be planted.
Our Monkey Puzzle trees
The trees are initially raised in a bed then transferred to a pot at year 2. Monkey Puzzles are very slow growing for the first 5-6 years.
Advice for planting
Trees for planting into final positions should be at least 4 years old and should be kept free of weeds for the first couple of year. When young, Monkey Puzzles are quite susceptible to Honey Fungus – a native fungus found in established woodland – and for this reason are best planted on grassland or other places where there was no previous woodland cover.