The monkey puzzle tree with its curious dome of spiky leaves is a common sight in the UK. However, in the Andes it occurs in huge primeval forests on the slopes of active volcanoes along the border between Chile and Argentina. These spectacular forests are reminiscent of those that once covered both the North and Southern Hemispheres 190 million years ago. A genuine living fossil, the monkey puzzle has out-survived the dinosaurs.
In addition to being able to live to more than 2000 years old and providing a habitat for some of South America’s most endangered mountain wildlife, the monkey puzzle forests are also central to the Pehuenche Indians. Pehuenche means people of the Pehuen (monkey puzzle tree) and around 5000 indigenous people continue to subsist by collecting the protienacious seeds of this remarkable tree.
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