on Vancouver Island, we refer to these prehistoric plants simply as "Monkey
Trees", but the rest of the English speaking world refer to them by their
proper name, "Monkey Puzzle Tree".
plants will wow visitors from other parts of the country like a Monkey
Puzzle does, and we just happen to live in the PERFECT
CLIMATE for them to truly thrive. Usually reported as painfully
slow growers, Monkey Puzzles can actually grow very quickly here on Vancouver
Island when planted in an ideal spot and cared for properly, (which we
will see further down on this page). In fact, North America's tallest
Monkey Puzzle tree apparently lives right here on Vancouver Island in the
northern community of Holberg.
MIGHTY GIANT IS SAID TO BE NA's TALLEST
for their unique symmetry, tropical look, and frighteningly sharp scale-like
"leaves", the Monkey Puzzle can now be found in great numbers along the
west coast of North America, from northern California up to southern British
Columbia, and pretty much anywhere else in the world with similar climates
between zones 7 and 9. They seem to prefer cool wet winters, and
hot dry summers, and need to be planted in a spot with excellent drainage.
TREES ARE SYMMETRICAL
UP OF TRUNK AND BRANCHES
OF MATURE MONKEY TREE
native of Chile and Argentina in South America, the Monkey Puzzle is classified
as an endangered species in its natural habitat. This is due to over
logging and natural phenomena such as excessive fires in the region, which
destroyed a large portion of the wild population. Thankfully, extensive
planting programs have been initiated, with a survival rate of over 90%
being reported on the new plants. The governments of Chile and Argentina
have also put into effect laws protecting this species from logging, so
hopefully we will see it removed from the endangered species list soon.
Monkey Puzzle is truly a prehistoric plant, with fossils showing it existed
in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods along with dinosaurs, (which may
explain the dinosaur-resistant spikes they adorn). They belong to the coniferous
Araucaria family, a once prolific genus which has few species left in it
today. Some of the Monkey Puzzle's closest remaining cousins would
be the Norfolk Island Pine, The Bunya Bunya Pine, and the recently discovered
Some equally prehistoric relatives of the Monkey Puzzle Tree
mentioned above in this article, I want to address the multiple reports
on the web that the Monkey Puzzle Tree is a "painfully slow grower".
This statement is probably true most of the time, but there are certainly
exceptions to the rule, and the growth rate of your tree will depend greatly
on various factors. These factors will include: YOUR ZONE, CURRENT
CLIMATE CONDITIONS, SOIL AND LOCATION, FERTILIZER, WATERING, etc, etc.
As we are about to see, a Monkey Puzzle can put on a LOT of growth in a
of all, lets address the hardiness zone of the Monkey Puzzle. It
is generally claimed they grow in zones 7 through 9, but "zone pushers"
have successfully grown this plant for many seasons outside these zones.
I've heard of folks growing them in Michigan and Ontario, places they really
shouldn't appear, but I'm not sure if they'd make it through a prolonged
cold spell in these areas when it inevitably happens.
snooping around on the net a bit, I found this Monkey Puzzle growing in
Staten Island New York, a hardiness zone of 6B, and it DID indeed make
it through a severe cold blast the region had in 2010. Notice though
that it is planted close to the house, so that may be the reason it seems
to be doing so well in this zone. (View the Google street view of
although reported to do well in Zone 9, the Monkey Puzzle doesn't like
extreme heat, like one might find in a Zone 9 in Florida, (compared to
a zone 9 here on Vancouver Island...which is a completely different climate
in comparison). Our west coast zone 8 is really the PERFECT place
to grow these trees.
make my point, I would like to show you the following pictures from our
own gardens and yards right here in Campbell River. In 2012, I obtained
a Monkey Puzzle tree, and my partners here at B'z Greenhouse, ("B" Keepers
Taran and her husband Chris) also got one. Both trees were approximately
the SAME SIZE and were obtained at the SAME TIME, they were outside getting
the SAME SUN and were under the SAME CONDITIONS, but they were treated
very differently, and their growth rates show this....
simply planted mine in a pot, and although it didn't get fertilizer, it
was watered regularly. Chris and Taran planted their Monkey Puzzle
in the ground, in a prime location in the middle of their backyard.
By the Spring of 2013, the differences between the 2 trees was quite dramatic.
By late March of 2013, T & C's Monkey Puzzle was noticeably larger
than mine. Most notable was the thickness of the stock, longer branches,
and of course, increased height.
27th, 2013: THIS MONKEY PUZZLE APPARENTLY LIKES ITS SUNNY LOCATION IN THE
MIDDLE OF THE BACKYARD.
in the above photo how tall the Monkey Puzzle tree is in comparison to
the bird bath beside it. Luckily, we had all noticed how "happy"
the plant was, and decided to document its growth during the upcoming growing
season. The photo below was taken 4 months later to the day, on July
27th, 2013: JUST 4 MONTHS LATER AND THIS HAPPY MONKEY TREE HAS ADDED ALMOST
2 FEET TO ITS HEIGHT!
I wanted to know what Chris had done to make this "slow grower" sprout
like it did. I was informed that although the tree DID get a couple
of doses of Miracle Grow, he attributed the amazing growth of it to the
regular watering the plant received during the Spring and Summer, often
getting 2 waterings a day. I should also mention that our winter
here in Campbell River during 2012-2013 was an extremely MILD one.
I'm not even sure if we hit -6C during the season, and if we did, it was
maybe only once or twice, and certainly not for long. Our Spring
of 2013 was wet and mild, and our Summer of 2013 was HOT, with around 30
days in a row of clear skies and 26C+ temperatures.
6th, 2013: ONLY 5 WEEKS LATER THAN THE PREVIOUS SHOT, AND THIS TREE HAS
ADDED AN ADDITIONAL FOOT!
you ever had one drink too many, then allowed someone to take a picture
of you? Let me assure you, that's certainly NOT the case in the above
picture! Believe it or not, it took us about 4 or 5 tries to get
this picture with me NOT laughing. I was also crippled for about
7 days afterwards! For your viewing pleasure, I have included a close
up of my face, so you can see the seriousness of this plant's growth.
I know it is difficult to take your eyes off of my poetic stance, take
a gander at what this tree has done in only 5 weeks. It has literally
gained almost another foot in this short time. In the July 27th pic
we were unable to determine how many new branches were going to come out
from the crown. In the above pic we were able to see that the Monkey
Puzzle was going to have 6 new branches, plus the stock, in the upcoming
- OCTOBER 2013 / (BELOW) - NOVEMBER 2013
from the 2 pictures above, we can see that the Monkey Puzzle in Chris and
Taran's backyard has stopped its growth spurt for this year, but when compared
to the original picture posted from March 2013, we can clearly see that
it has nearly DOUBLED its height in just one growing season. I have
predicted this plant will again nearly double itself in the upcoming growing
season of 2014. You can be sure we'll be following up on this story
then ; )
is the Monkey Puzzle REALLY a "slow grower"? Well as I mentioned
above, I got a similar sized tree at the same time as T & C did, and
it had the SAME weather conditions to grow in, but was treated much differently.
Below is a picture of my Monkey Puzzle tree, taken in November, one day
later than the picture above.
26th, 2013: IT'S HEALTHY AND GROWING, BUT THIS POTTED MONKEY PUZZLE IS
STUNTED COMPARED TO ITS BROTHER!
like any other plant, how these trees are treated will make a BIG difference
in their growth habit. Ideal conditions, like being planted in the
ground in a sunny location, with occasional fertilizing, lots of watering,
and favorable weather can see these trees add AMAZING growth to themselves
in a single season.
a slower growing specimen? Try a Monkey Puzzle as a potted plant,
or plant it in a shadier area of your yard...and DON'T fertilize it or
give it too much water, LOL! Remember, no matter how you treat this
plant, it will eventually grow into a true giant, so try to be sure to
place it in an area that will allow for that.
TRUE RELIC FROM THE PAST. MONKEY PUZZLES GIVE YOU YOUR OWN PIECE
OF PREHISTORIC HISTORY TO WATCH GROW.
tuned! This coming Spring I will be planting my own 'little' potted
Monkey Puzzle in the ground to see what a difference it makes, and we'll
also be keeping an investigative eye on Chris and Taran's tree to see if
my prediction of it doubling in size once again in 2014 really happens.
for reading, I hope you enjoyed the story, (so far!).