Monkey Puzzle Tree

(Araucaria araucana) Equally well-known is the name CHILE PINE. Introduced into Britain at the end of the 18th century, long enough ago to have a little folklore attached to it. "Never speak while passing a monkey puzzle tree" (Opie & Opie) is a widely known children's proscription, from Scotland to London, where the result of breaking the commandment is said to be bad luck for three years (Opie & Tatem). It was an old Fenland belief that if one of these trees was planted on the edge of a graveyard, it would prove an obstacle to the devil when he tried to hide in the branches to watch a burial. In spite of that, though, it is a generally unlucky tree throughout the area (Porter. 1969).

The name Monkey Puzzle is said to have arisen from a remark by Charles Austin during the ceremonial planting of one of these trees in the gardens at Pencar-row, in Cornwall, in 1834 - "it would be a puzzle for a monkey to climb that tree" (Grigson. 1974). Another derivation claims that the name came about because of the way the branches curl into the shape of a monkey's tail (Campbell-Culver).

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