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.

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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)