top of page
  • Martin Castle

Araucaria araucana

Everton parade the cup

As I sit here on a very wet afternoon Everton FC sit at the top of the English Premier League and that thought sends me back to Basildon, Essex on the 14th May 1966. I'm sitting some 20' above the ground in a venerable multi-branched oak tree with my friend Richard. With us is a transistor radio and we sit there listening to the radio broadcast of the FA Cup Final from Wembley (where I had been born almost 9 years earlier). Everton played Sheffield Wednesday - neither of us had any connection to the teams playing that day - Southend was our local professional team and 1966 would see them relegated to the 4th division for the first time in their Football League history - but it was the start of a summer of football that would, not much more than 10 weeks later, gift us football-mad young boys the amazing joy of England winning the Jules Rimet Trophy at the same Wembley venue. The 1966 FA Cup Final was a most exciting game and saw an unlikely comeback that allowed Everton to take the trophy back to Merseyside.

The tree-covered embankment in Beverley Meadow

Tree-climbing was simply a part of my growing up and when we moved to Canterbury imagine my delight that the field across the road was bounded by a bank of mature trees that had overtaken the long-abandoned embankment of the Crab and Winkle Railway Line. Every dry leisure moment was spent in those trees and sometimes in tunnels we dug under them! It was only the discovery of girls that saw our attraction to the trees and the games we played there begin to change.

We have a number of species of tree in our garden, mostly natives in some shape or form but I would like space for one non-native specimen that my dad often referred to as his favourite. I'm sure it has something to do with it being intriguing and exotic - it is the Araucaria araucana.

The Araucaria araucana (commonly called the monkey puzzle tree, monkey tail tree, piñonero, pewen or Chilean pine) is an evergreen tree growing to 1–1.5 m (3–5 ft) in diameter and 30–40 m (100–130 ft) in height. It is native to central and southern Chile and western Argentina. It is the hardiest species in the conifer genus Araucaria. The prevalence of similar species in ancient prehistory means it is sometimes called a living fossil. It is also the national tree of Chile. Its conservation status was changed to endangered by the IUCN in 2013 due to the dwindling population caused by logging, forest fires, and grazing.

The triangular leaves are thick, tough, and scale-like and have an average lifespan of 24 years and so cover most of the tree except for the older branches. There are male and female trees but occasionally individual trees bear flowers of both sexes. The thick bark may be an adaptation to wildfire. Rodents are important consumers and dispersers of its seeds. The long-haired grass mouse, (Abrothrix longipilis), is the most important animal responsible for dispersing the seeds as, unusually, it buries them whole.

long-haired grass mouse,

It is a popular garden tree, planted for the unusual effect of its thick, other-worldly branches and very symmetrical appearance. It prefers temperate climates with abundant rainfall, tolerating temperatures down to about −20 °C (−4 °F). It can grow well in western Europe, the west coast of North America, New Zealand and southeastern Australia. It is tolerant of coastal salt spray, but is less tolerant of polluted air - sounds like NN might be ok?

The tree has some potential to be a food crop but does not yield seeds until it is around 30 to 40 years old, which discourages investment in orchards, although yields at maturity can be immense. Once established, it can live as long as 1,000 years. Its timber was once valued because of its long straight trunk but now its current rarity and vulnerable status mean its wood is rarely used and Chilean Pine is listed in the CITES Appendix I as an endangered species.

Flag of Araucanía Region

The silhouette of the araucaria is very recognizable and has become a symbol for the southern regions of Argentina and Chile. For example, araucarias appear on the coats of arms of Neuquén Province and Araucanía Region.

First identified by Europeans in Chile in the 1780s, its formal name was finally confirmed in 1873. The name araucana is derived from the native Araucanians who used the nuts (seeds) of the tree in Chile. So why is it called the Monkey Puzzle Tree?

The origin of the popular English language name derives from its early cultivation in Britain in about 1850, when the species was still very rare in gardens and not widely known. Sir William Molesworth, the owner of a young specimen at Pencarrow garden near Bodmin in Cornwall, was showing it to a group of friends, when one of them – the noted barrister Charles Austin – remarked, "It would puzzle a monkey to climb that". As the species had no existing popular name, first "monkey puzzler", then "monkey puzzle" stuck.


With November nearly upon us that means Christmas isn't too far behind. Time to practice your Christmas drinks - so here's an option from Chile (and Peru).

Cola de Mono

Makes 6 servings

This is a traditional Chilean Christmas-time drink of milk flavoured with coffee and spice. The recipe can be varied to suit your tastes - be creative with the proportions of coffee, cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla, as well as with your choice of alcohol.


7 whole cloves

2 cinnamon sticks

¼ cup and 2 tablespoons water

6 cups cold milk

1 tbsp and 1½ teaspoons instant coffee granules

¼ cup and 2 tablespoons white sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

¼ cup and 2 tablespoons pisco, white rum, brandy, or other lightly-flavoured liquor


1. Gently simmer the cloves and cinnamon sticks in water until reduced by half, about 30 minutes.

2. Add 1 cup of milk, and heat to a simmer, then stir in and dissolve the coffee and sugar.

3. Strain the coffee mixture into the remaining cold milk, and discard the cloves and cinnamon sticks.

4. Stir in the vanilla extract and pisco or alternative and keep chilled.

Word of the Day is ...

"harbergery" -

Noun: An inn or place of entertainment. noun - probably from middle English via old English herebeorg (lodging).

"Due to tier 3 restrictions I am unable to attend at my usual harbergery!"

ps: Everton were the first team since Bury FC in 1903 to reach an FA Cup Final without conceding a goal in the preceding rounds. Everton became only the second side ever, after Blackpool in 1953, to come from two goals behind to win the cup without the need of extra time, a feat which has not been repeated since. Everton fan Eddie Cavanagh invaded the pitch and running full pelt across the Wembley turf was chased by a procession of police officers. One grabbed Cavanagh’s coat tails, but he wriggled out of his jacket and the policeman fell to the turf, holding an empty coat. A second officer gave up the chase, throwing his hat to the ground in frustration. A third officer, coming from a different direction, caught Cavanagh unawares – "I didn’t see him coming because he wouldn’t have caught me," he recalled – and floored him with a rugby tackle. A bevy of policemen piled onto Cavanagh, then threw him out of the ground. But Cavanagh was indomitable: he climbed back in and was able to see Derek Temple’s winner and Brian Labone lift the Cup.

pps: In 1994 the 'Wollemi pine', was discovered in southeast Australia and is classed in the plant family Araucariaceae. Their common ancestry dates to a time when Australia, Antarctica, and South America were linked by land – all three continents were once part of the supercontinent known as Gondwana.

ppps: Pisco is a colorless or yellowish-to-amber coloured brandy produced in winemaking regions of Chile and Peru.

pppps: Katayoun remembers a large specimen being blown down in the grounds of the Reigate College of Art and Design in the great storm of 1987. She says it was very prickly and hoped that by taking a cutting she could cultivate a replacement - sadly, for someone notoriously green-fingered, that experiment failed,


Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think" – A A Milne

No matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse.” - Randy Pausch (an American educator) from The Last Lecture. (This is worth a watch - it's long but uplifting)

44 views2 comments


Oct 24, 2020

That makes a change from mulled wine, and I love ‘harbergery’! I must try to slip that into conversation


David Burns
David Burns
Oct 24, 2020

I am planting a Monkey Puzzel this very day! Southend are now bottom of level 4, so little progress in many years!

bottom of page