The Monkey Puzzle -This curious tree has a primeval look about it. The kind of plant that would probably have been familiar to dinosaurs. It always develops a perfectly straight stem and equally spaced whorls of branches. The lower ones die off as they are starved of light by new growth above them producing an end result that is reminiscent of an open umbrella. The bark on the stem is grey and becomes heavily wrinkled like a gigantic elephant's foot. The evergreen foliage covers the branches entirely. It consists of hard viciously sharp pointed overlapping scales.
In the landscape there is tremendous scope to use monkey puzzle as a single specimen or as a small group. The end result is very exotic, sometimes quite unreal. From the high forests of South America this tree, also known as Chile pine, is like no other in Britain. It was introduced soon after 1795. Archibald Menzies planted seeds on board a ship returning to Britain from Chile. They had been intended by local Indians to be eaten for supper before his departure. Monkey puzzle was re-introduced on a larger scale in 1844 after which time it became an essential part of every respectable Victorian garden. The tree is extinct in most of the areas where seeds were first collected. It is thought that there is more genetic diversity in Britain now than in South America.
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