Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria araucana)

Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria araucana)

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Common Name(s): Monkey Puzzle, Chilean Pine

Scientific Name: Araucaria araucana

Distribution: Chile and Argentina; also planted as an ornamental tree

Tree Size: 65-115 ft (20-35 m) tall, 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 34 lbs/ft3 (545 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .40, .52

Janka Hardness: 320 lbf (1,420 N)

Modulus of Rupture: No data available

Elastic Modulus: No data available

Crushing Strength: No data available

Shrinkage: No data available

Color/Appearance: Heartwood is light brown, sometimes with a yellow or red hue. Paler sapwood isn’t clearly defined. Sometimes afflicted with blue/gray fungal staining, particularly if not dried properly. (In certain applications this staining is considered decorative, particularly when the wood also features contrasting reddish knots.)

Grain/Texture: Grain is usually straight, with a fine to medium uniform texture. Moderate natural luster.

Endgrain: Resin canals absent; earlywood to latewood transition gradual, color contrast low; tracheid diameter medium-large.

Rot Resistance: Rated as non-durable to perishable; poor insect resistance. Also susceptible to fungal staining.

Workability: Clear sections of wood are easy to work with hand and machine tools. Sections with knots can be problematic and result in tearout or uneven sanding due to the difference in density of the two regions. Glues, finishes, and turns well.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, wood in the Araucaria genus has been reported to cause skin irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: International trade in Monkey Puzzle is highly restricted, with no trees being harvested from its natural range. Occasional blanks are available from downed ornamental trees planted outside its natural range. Expect prices to be high for a domestic softwood.

Sustainability: This wood species is in CITES Appendix I (including finished wood products), and is on the IUCN Red List. It is listed as endangered due to having a natural area of occupancy of less than 500 square kilometers (less than 193 square miles), and the IUCN also estimates that the area is also severely fragmented and declining.

Common Uses: Furniture, plywood, paper (pulpwood), turned objects, and small specialty wood items.

Comments: So named from early seeds brought to the UK and grown as ornamental trees, which caused initial observers to remark that the spiny branches would be a puzzle for a monkey to climb. 

The national tree of Chile, Monkey Puzzle is sometimes referred to as Chilean Pine, though it’s not technically a true pine in the Pinus genus, which is essentially restricted to the northern hemisphere. However, Monkey Puzzle is a member of the Araucaria genus, which could be considered a southern hemisphere counterpart to the Pinus genus.

Related Species:

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures: 

Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria araucana)

Monkey Puzzle (sanded)

Monkey Puzzle (sealed)

Monkey Puzzle (sealed)

Monkey Puzzle (endgrain)

Monkey Puzzle (endgrain)

Monkey Puzzle (endgrain 10x)

Monkey Puzzle (endgrain 10x)

Monkey Puzzle (turned)

Monkey Puzzle (turned)

 
  • JP

    I’d like to see a picture of this wood so I won’t buy anything made of it.

    • ejmeier

      Sorry, I don’t have any samples of this wood, but it honestly looks very similar to pine, and I doubt anybody would be able to tell the difference at a causal glance of finished product.

      Monkey Puzzle is one of those trees where, yes, it’s endangered in its natural habitat, but it’s been planted and cultivated all over the globe, that you could legitimately come across a Monkey Puzzle tree in someone’s back yard. I personally feel that in those situations, there’d be no problem cutting it down and using it for lumber.

      Take Radiata Pine for example: it’s classified as endangered in it’s local habitat in California, but it’s grown all over the place on plantations. We’ve got Radiata Pine coming out of our ears!

  • Max

    As I have seen, the common name of the species may be derived from the actual appearance of the bark, which tends to peel off leaving patches of vibrant color. In fact these trees are prominently featured in the forest scenes of the Disney classic Bambi.
    I know this from having seen groves of these trees in their natural habitat, in southeastern Argentina.

    By the way, your website is a treasure.

  • john

    Recently cut monkey puzzle tree.

  • Peter du Feu

    Monkey puzzle when turned has amazing patterns with the knots from the branches producing this spectacular result. This 20″ diameter bowl came from a tree downed by the winter storms in the UK of 2013/14

    • ejmeier

      Very nice! Almost reminds me of Norfolk Island Pine, a closely related species.