Araucaria araucana (commonly called the monkey puzzle tree, monkey tail tree, Chilean pine, or pehuén) is an evergreen tree growing to 40 metres (130 ft) tall with a 2 metres (7 ft) trunk diameter. The tree is native to central and southern Chile and western Argentina. Araucaria araucana is the hardiest species in the conifer genus Araucaria. Because of the great age of this species it is sometimes described as a living fossil. Its conservation status was enhanced to Endangered by the IUCN in 2013 due to its declining abundance.
It is the national tree of Chile.
The leaves are thick, tough and scale-like, triangular, 3–4 cm long, 1–3 cm broad at the base, and with sharp edges and tip. They persist for 10–15 years or more, so cover most of the tree except for the older branches.
It is usually dioecious, with the male and female cones on separate trees, though occasional individuals bear cones of both sexes. The male (pollen) cones are oblong and cucumber-shaped, 4 cm long at first, expanding to 8–12 cm long by 5–6 cm broad at pollen release. The tree is wind pollinated. The female (seed) cones, which mature in autumn about 18 months after pollination, are globose, large, 12–20 cm diameter, and hold about 200 seeds. The cones disintegrate at maturity to release the 3–4 cm long nut-like seeds.
Its native habitat is the lower slopes of the Chilean and Argentinian south-central Andes, typically above 1,000 metres (3,300 ft). Juvenile trees exhibit a broadly pyramidal or conical habit which naturally develops into the distinctive umbrella form of mature specimens as the tree ages. It prefers well drained, slightly acidic, volcanic soil but will tolerate almost any soil type provided it drains well.
(From Wikipedia, October 2013)