Monkey puzzle tree - Araucaria araucana
A tree that was around in the time of the dinosaurs but now is endangered in its native homeland of Chile and Argentina where vast tracts of the forests have been cleared for agriculture.
The seeds of the monkey puzzle tree cannot be stored in a seedbank so it must be grown to be conserved. However, it grows easily and is popular in gardens.
At Bedgebury this tree can be seen in the car park dividing the parking lanes. Hopefully, over the years, the car park will be framed by a stunning avenue of monkey puzzle trees. There is also a quarter acre plantation of this species behind the Forestry Commission office.
The last seed collection took place in 2007 in Chile on a joint expedition with Westonbirt and Wakehurst Place. A new monkey puzzle forest is now being planted using seed raised plants from this expedition, using seeds from the most genetically diverse and threatened population on the coastal peaks at Nahuelbuta National Park, a sanctuary for the monkey puzzle tree where the oldest specimen are around 2000 years old.