It is an unfortunate fact that the monkey puzzle tree is now an endangered species. Deforestation to clear land for animals and crops in the Andes has had a devastating effect despite logging being banned in 1990. Thousands of acres have been destroyed by fire, despite the illegality of burning, during the last few years.
The trees suffered a major setback in 2001/2002 when 20,000 hectares of native araucaria forest in national parks were destroyed by fire in Chile. Eventually in 2013 monkey puzzle trees were upgraded to Endangered on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of threatened species. However, fires still continue as a major threat destroying large areas of forests in the Andes. In 2015 several thousand more acres were devastated by fire following a long period of drought.
Additionally, because the trees grow so slowly and take 30 years or more to produce seed, they can’t recover from setbacks quite so easily as most other trees. As if that wasn’t enough, they are also threatened by several invasive species which take the place of Araucaria araucana before they can re-establish themselves.
Fortunately there are several projects both in Chile and in the U.K. to help save the iconic monkey puzzle tree.
Twenty years ago, The Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh brought over hundreds of seeds from Chile and in 1991 established the International Conifer Conservation Program (ICCP). The seeds were propagated and the young trees were dispersed to various sites in the U.K.
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, June 2015
These include Benmore Botanic Gardens near Dunoon in Scotland, where more than 100 are growing in their Chilean hillside, a glen in Perthshire which has forty young trees and a Chilean arboretum which was planted at the Eden Project in Cornwall.
Benmore Botanic Garden, near Dunoon, Scotland. October 2018