Monkey Puzzle Tree Meaning and Symbolism

 5 min read

The monkey puzzle tree, also called the Chile pine, is a close-to-extinction conifer found in South America. It has been seen as a physical bridge between the spirit world and our own due to its many caring symbolism and meanings such as devotion, love, longevity, healing properties and more.

The Monkey Puzzle tree is impossible to climb because it is coated with spiny scales however; many parrots reside in this type of tree specifically because they feed off of the nuts it produces. The growth of this plant resembles that of a pyramid.

Symbolism:Care
Divine Associations:Pehuencha and Pehuenkuze (native Chilean)
Astrological Associations:Saturn and Mars
Historical Spotlight:Monkeys are not found in the forests of Chile, yet early European observers were baffled by how such animals could climb the sharp spikes of trees in that region.

About Monkey Puzzle Trees

Monkey puzzle tree branch
Monkey puzzle tree branch

Araucaria is a genus of around 15 tall, evergreen coniferous trees and they are dioecious, meaning that each tree has either male or female reproductive organs – but not both.

The adult leaves mostly grow near the top of the trunk and Araucarians typically have woody cones containing winged seeds on their scales. It takes 2-3 years for these seeds to mature fully.

The monkey-puzzle tree has leathery leaves that are 1-2 inches long and overlap closely. The male cones are large but much smaller than the female cones, which measure 4-7 inches tall and 3-5 inches wide.

Practical Uses

The monkey puzzle was once an important food source for native people, but it quickly became the most sought-after coniferous timber tree in Chile. However, over-exploitation led to the species being placed on the World List of Threatened Trees.

Now, according to the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species, trade-in Chilean monkey-puzzle timber is banned.

In the 1980s, Chile’s indigenous people fought to preserve their trees. When the government eventually gave in to this pressure, it not only curtailed logging companies’ access but also limited the native peoples’ rights to harvest seeds for food.

Natural Healing

The people inhabiting the territory for a long time peel off the outer layer of the healthy seeds to eat them boiled or roasted. The seeds have a similarity in taste to sweet chestnuts.

They also grind the seeds into powder form to make flour for bread or wheat-free beer.

The resin from these trees has usage in various external and internal medicines as well.

Folklore, Myth and Symbol of Monkey Puzzle Trees

Monkey puzzle tree
Monkey puzzle tree

At the turn of the Mesozoic era, 190 million years ago, the monkey puzzle was a top species in the southern hemisphere. Nowadays, they only exist in a handful of areas.

In Chile, there is a native tribe called Pehuenche who share a special connection with these trees– so much that their name derives from it (pehuen meaning monkey-puzzle; and che translating to people).

From late summer to early autumn every year, they reside in the high volcanic forests as food gatherers. During this time they harvest both Monkey-puzzle seeds to consume and store away. Although they burn dead wood for warmth, they would never harm a living tree.

The monkey puzzle tree holds great significance to the Pehuenche people, who see the female trees as “mothers” and the whole monkey-puzzle forest as part of their extended family.

It is believed that male and female trees reproduce through interconnected root systems.

The Monkey Puzzle Forest is home to important deities including Pehuencha and Pehuensuzu, whom members of the tribe honor with danced ceremonies around special solstice fires at summer’s end every year.

FAQ

Why is it called Monkey Puzzle?

The Monkey Puzzle tree, also known as the Araucaria araucana, gets its unique name from an incident involving nineteenth-century British landscape architect and gardener John Loudon.

Upon first seeing the tree’s sharp, prickly leaves, Loudon remarked that they were so intricate it would be difficult for even a monkey to climb it without getting injured.

The name stuck, and the tree has been known as the Monkey Puzzle ever since.

Are there different types of monkey puzzle trees?

When it comes to the monkey puzzle tree or Araucaria araucana, there is only one type of tree. However, within that species, there are recognizable variations. Some monkey puzzle trees have straighter trunks with tightly packed branches, while others have a more open and sprawling growth pattern.

There are also colour variations, with some trees having a brighter green hue and others having a darker green hue.

Overall, though the variations in appearance may be notable, they are all still considered to be the same species of monkey puzzle tree.

The fact that they can adapt to such varying conditions and still maintain their distinctive shape makes this species even more unique.

Are Monkey Puzzle trees ancient?

The Monkey Puzzle tree has been around for a very long time. Genetically speaking, these trees are considered to be some of the oldest living species on earth.

Fossil records show that they first appeared during the Jurassic period, between 144 and 208 million years ago.

Despite their ancient origins, Monkey Puzzle trees weren’t introduced to Europe until the 19th century. Since then, they have become popular ornamental plants for their unusual appearance and resistance to harsh weather conditions.

Conclusion

The monkey puzzle tree is a powerful symbol with many different meanings. It can represent caring for others, devotion, love, longevity, and healing.

Monkey puzzle trees are also often used in communication with the otherworld, resolution of conflicts, and banishing negative energy.

If you are looking for a tattoo with deep symbolism, consider the monkey puzzle tree.