False monkey puzzle
Araucaria Bidwilii Hook
A so-called “relic” plant, this conifer was present during the Jurassic. The Araucaria owes its name to the region of Araucania in Chile from which one of them comes. The Chilean Araucaria is the national tree of Chile (hence its name). Its nickname “monkey puzzle” is due to its sharp scales which prevent it being climbed even by monkeys. For the record, there are no species of monkey in Chile.
The Chilean Araucaria is a threatened species in its natural environment, its exploitation has been forbidden in Chile since 1990 and the collection of seeds by the native peoples is restricted.
Origin: Araucaria bidwillii is an evergreen conifer, endemic to eastern Australia. In the wild, the tree is now protected in national parks.
Habitat: Regions with a mild climate
Characteristics: The Araucaria can reach a height of 25 m in its native environment.
The female cones are very big, 20 to 25 cm in diameter. When ripe, they fall intact to the ground and can weigh up to 10 kg, so beware!
Flowering period: Summer
Uses and properties: Its high quality wood was used to make boat masts and for carpentry. Today, its use is forbidden.
Its fruits, which ripen in 2 years, contain 50 to 100 seeds, the kernel of which is eaten roasted or mixed into bread or cake dough. The kernel of its seeds was a traditional aboriginal food.
History and oddities
The close relatives of this genus are known to have been part of the early Cenozoic rain forests. The oldest araucaria fossils date back to the Triassic-Jurassic period (250-200 million years before present).
Araucaria araucana is often seen in old aristocratic gardens. The species has been protected since 1982, collecting its seeds is forbidden.