Monkey Puzzle Tree

by Green Deane

in Edible Raw, Grain/Nuts/Seeds, Plants, Trees/Shrubs

Lunch Drops In

Monkey Puzzle Tree seeds

My good friend Saul is a luthier, a man who works with exotic woods. He repairs premium wooden instruments. It is not unusual for him to be working on a Stradivarius or a Guarneri someone sat on. And for 30 years he thought the tree right outside his shop was a Monkey Puzzle Tree, Araucaria araucana (air-ah-KAIR-ee-uh air-ah-KAY-nuh.) That’s what it was sold as. It’s not. It’s a close relative, the Bunya Pine.  The falling cones from either, however, can still injure you.

The Monkey Puzzle Tree is from Central Chile and Argentina. But, it’s a common landscape plant in Florida and southern border states all the way to California then up the west coast. It is also cultivated in England and Ireland, In fact the tree’s name came from an incident in England’s Cornwall in 1850. The tree back then was rare in gardens and not widely known. The owner of a young tree at Pencarrow Garden was showing it off to a group of friends when one said “It would puzzle a monkey to climb that.” At the time the tree had no common name in English. It was first called the ‘monkey-puzzler’ tree  but ‘monkey-puzzle tree’ eventually caught on.

Cone of the Monkey Puzzle Tree

The point has been made that any monkey trying to climb the tree would likely be injured. Its leaves are more like ferocious reptilian spines than leaves. And, monkeys don’t live in the tree’s native range. However, dinosaurs did some 250 million years ago and there is some speculation that the ancient tree’s armament was to dissuade dinosaurs from lunch. Most surprisingly, it’s in the Pine family closely related to the Norfolk Pine, Araucarua excelsa (air-ah-KAIR-ee-uh eck-SELL-suh.) Like the Natal Plum and Chinese Elm, it’s an easy-to-find tree in temperate suburbia. They’ll be around for a while because some are at least 2,000 years old or more.

While found mostly among southern border states the tree is actually hardy and prefers cooler climates with some nice specimens in the Pacific Northwest states and British Columbia. It is a favorite display tree in Great Britain and grows well in Australia and New Zealand.  It does, however, take a male and a female tree to produce cones and seeds, usually a ratio of seven ladies to one fellow but I’d plant two guys just in case. The delicious seeds are edible raw or cooked. They are rich in starch and resemble an almond in size with a slight flavor of pine nuts.

The official tree of Chile, it was first found by outsiders the 1780s. It was named Pinus araucana 1782. By 1873, after a lot of botanical arguments, it became Araucaria araucana. The name Araucana comes from the native Araucano People who used the seeds of the tree in Chile. Sadly its numbers are dropping in its native range and has been protected since 1990.

Lastly, the seeds of the Araucaria bidwillii, (air-ah-KAIR-ee-uh bid-WILL-ee-eye) a native of Australia, are also edible.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: Pyramid-shaped tree 90 to 130 feet tall, 3 to 4 feet in diameter. The branches grow horizontally in whorls of five in opposite pairs, drooping, stems brittle, bark corky; feathery leaves, pale green, compound, tripinnate; The leaf is an armor-like scale, triangular, oval to lance shape, 1 to 2 inches long, shiny green on both surfaces but surface marked with longitudinal lines, RAZOR SHARP. Male and female flowers. Male cones and female cones. Female cones are large, round, dark brown, develop in two to three years, 4 to 7 inches long, 3 to 6 inches wide, falloff at maturity; split in three when dried, 200 seeds are brown to orange, triangular in shape with papery wings, 1 to 1 1/2 inches long, the nut is long and narrow with 2 small even wings that are denticulate at the top.

TIME OF YEAR: When ever you find thefemale  cones on the ground.

ENVIRONMENT: Prefers well-drained, slightly acidic, volcanic soil but will tolerate almost any soil type. It produces the heaviest where there are cool summers.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Seeds, raw or cooked. They can be boiled or roasted. Ground, they make a good flour substitute.


Resin from the tree is used to treat wounds and ulcers.



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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

ISRAR March 31, 2017 at 02:38



Heather September 10, 2014 at 14:19

My neighbor has one. Haven,t seen cones yet, but boy she hates that tree. Had flip-flop failure. Ouch!!!


John Willsher June 2, 2014 at 13:51

I would like to purchase some monkey puzzle tree seeds directly from Argentina or Chile. Does anyone know who I should contact in Argentina or Chile to buy the seeds directly from them?




John December 4, 2013 at 01:28

Will The Monkey Puzzle Tree grow In Fotr Worth, Texas Very Hot Weather.


Green Deane December 4, 2013 at 06:13

Yes, it’s more cold weather that’s a problem than hot weather.


Val September 8, 2013 at 01:45

I have a monkey tree that is now about 40 yrs old. It has always been a male tree with the male cones. Approximately 18-24months ago it started growing four female cones at the very top and they are now throwing the seeds out. You say that there must be male and female trees for them to seed. Mine is the only one for some miles so is this unusual to have both male and female cones? They also throw the seeds not just drop them and when the cone first opens to throw the seeds the first time it makes a noise is this also unusual?


Cheryl Sadie July 8, 2013 at 11:13

We were offered branches of the Monkey puzzle tree for fire wood
1.) Does the wood give off toxic fumes when burning?
2.) Can we prepare meat over the coals; do the coals give off toxic fumes?


Green Deane July 18, 2013 at 02:43

I don’t know. A close relative, the Bunya Pine, is esteemed for its smoke.


Amanda June 25, 2013 at 15:51

Hi i have a Monkey puzzle tree in my yard to which we had to cut down. Iv donated all the trunk to local wood crafters but have kept all the brown seeds to which fell off, i’v also kept all the big round cones that were on it. I’m wondering if i crack the Cones open are there nuts inside to which are edible?? As i’v been told by a friend and i’m un-sure. I would like to “recycle” if that’s the correct term as much as possible as my tree was some 24/25 years old and rather dear to us.The ‘cones’ never fell off the tree i cut them off at the butt and saved them. Any advice and wisdom would be very appreciated.
Thank you for your time.
Amanda 🙂


Green Deane June 25, 2013 at 16:34

They are edible when they fall. Before that it is iffy. Personally, I would taste one, carefully.


judy June 25, 2013 at 08:07

I will need to cut down a 40′ to 50′ monkey puzzle tree from a property in Largo, FL that I recently purchased. I worry about the liability of those huge seeds dropping on someone’s head who is walking by. Or, dropping on and damaging someone’s vehicle. Is there anyone out there who is interested in the wood?


Su May 8, 2013 at 21:55

I live in Ocala Florida and would like to grow a monkey puzzle tree they are awesome will they survive here and can you recommend a reputable grower


Kerstin Rhoads May 6, 2013 at 22:00

Do you know where we can see a monkey puzzle near central florida? My son is a budding 9 yr old paleo-botanist (is that a word?) and is dying to see one. The closest I have come is the bunya bunya.


Green Deane May 7, 2013 at 09:28

The entrance to Mead Garden, Winter Park, direcly on your left.


Joyce June 19, 2012 at 17:56

Are norfolk pines edible? I have one in my front yard dripping sap. Is it possible to use the seeds or sap for anything?


Green Deane June 19, 2012 at 18:18

Not that I know of.


Brian December 27, 2016 at 10:45

Article says “Resin from the tree is used to treat wounds and ulcers.”


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