When I was a kid my mother used to reward me with a dime every time I spotted a monkey puzzle tree, but she held back that dime if we were in Vancouver. She claimed there were too many monkey puzzle trees growing in Vancouver and it would have cost her a fortune in dimes.
This unique, ornamental tree got its curious name because it’s the only tree a monkey can’t climb. The dark green leaves on the branches are set close together, triangular, spiky, and sharp to touch. When the tree is only a few feet tall it resembles a somewhat funky looking Christmas tree but it can grow sixty to seventy feet high and thirty feet wide, though in its native South American climate it has been measured double this size. The monkey puzzle likes temperate climates with lots of rain and does well in the wet Pacific North West and other countries with similar climates. The tree tolerates temperatures below freezing to about -20 Celsius or -4 Fahrenheit and can take heat during the summer months as long as it’s frequently watered but does not like hot, arid climates. However, with a little TLC the monkey puzzle tree can grace the gardens of a house in just about any country. The monkey puzzle tree is slow growing, about a section or a foot every year or two. Due to its slow growth it might take many years before it begins to produce “seeds” a brown apple shaped cone on its branches. This is harvested and eaten in South America.
A couple of years after my mother passed away, I was shopping at a garden nursery holding a 50% off sale on trees and plants. I walked past a pallet where six or seven young monkey puzzle trees sat together in gallon pots. They were about a foot or so high. I reached out to touch one and it bit me! Sharp edges! Ouch! They were eighty bucks apiece. Double ouch! Seemed a little on the high price to me but I’m not an expert on trees and how much they cost. After thinking about it for a bit, I decided half price at forty bucks might be a decent price and picked up the one I already had an existing relationship with.
I didn’t know a thing about monkey puzzle trees other than the memories of my mother giving me a dime and telling me a monkey can’t climb one. I soon discovered a monkey puzzle tree is a very slow growing tree. It grows about a foot a year, about one section, the part where the monkey puzzle tree sprouts off four branches. As these branches grow they will sprout two or three more branches and so on. The monkey puzzle tree doesn’t require much attention. Don’t dare try to trim the branches or get too close to weed it! Monkey puzzle tree fights back! Don’t plant it close to anything else because this tree doesn’t like anyone.
Who else has seen the anti-social monkey puzzle tree?