If you walk along the far edge of the great lawn in front of Old Dorm Block, you will find the Araucaria araucana tree, otherwise known as the Monkey Puzzle tree. This tree, according to Global Trees Campaign, is the national tree of Chile, and it is native to the temperate rainforests of Chile and Argentina. In Chile, the tree grows both in the Andes and along the coast. The tree’s cones or fruit are edible, and have provided food for the indigenous Pehuenche people. The tree’s wood, which is strong and resistant to fungal decay, lends itself to building bridges, furniture, and other structures. The tree is endangered, since its habitat has been significantly damaged by logging, grazing, and volcanic fires.
The tree itself, according to A Description of the Genus Pinus, grows to about 150 feet tall in forests. The bark consists of two layers: the inner is light and porous while the outer has a cork-like consistency, and both layers are full of resin. The resin has medicinal properties and can treat sores, wounds or fractures, and headaches. The tree flourishes in moist soil as well as partially shaded areas. The Global Tree Campaign also explains that the tree releases between 120 and 200 of its seeds, which are called “piñones”, through its cones each year. The picture that the tree’s light tan colored bark is also covered with spikes, and each branch of the tree is entirely covered by its stiff, leathery, and sharply-pointed leaves. The monkey puzzle tree can live for up to two millenia.
Walking by this tree here at Reed, I am reminded of John Muir remarking: “I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do.” Our very own Araucaria araucana grips the soil as though it really does likes it here at Reed.