Today’s tree: Monkey Puzzle or Monkey Tail Tree, Araucaria araucana
Each morning this is the first tree I see as I make my coffee and wash morning dishes at the kitchen sink. As Fall reminds me of change, this tree assures me with its longevity, preceding humanity’s presence on Earth. Jurassic elephant skin wrinkles make winter storage for squirrels clambering up.
This particular monkey puzzle tree in my yard has its lower branches turning brown and falling. Observers have suggested it is dying, but mature trees apparently drop their lower branches and head into old age with only an umbrella. Its spiny leaves are painful if they fall on skin with any force, as I have experienced while gardening in wind. Shape lends to resilience for this 60 million year old species. I have witnessed a huge number of hummingbirds, starlings and oriels using the tails of this tree as rest stops.
Research tells me this tree is the national tree of Chile, and as of 2013 is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Endangered list in its native habitat. For further information, look here:
Knowing an endangered species lives in front of my kitchen window is amazing. I also see “my” tree is female with its large Fall cones, and apparently these cones on 30- to 40-year-old trees produce large pine nuts harvested in Chile and used by indigenous peoples.
I am honored and humbled by the presence of this tree in my daily life. The branch-swinging monkey was my totem animal as a child, and I say, long live the monkey tails!