Described as beautiful and bizarre, the monkey puzzle tree, Araucaria araucana, is considered the nearest relative to the trees of the Carboniferous period, which was 300 million years ago. Araucaria araucana's sharp reptilian armor-like leaves prompted its common name. Archibald Menzies, a prolific plant collector, introduced the tree to England in 1795. The monkey puzzle tree quickly became popular among Victorian era gardeners who planted it in many gardens and parks around the world. The name Monkey puzzle is derived from the wood’s early cultivation in Britain in about 1850. Legend has it that an owner of a young tree specimen in Cornwall was showing it to a group of friends, and one made the remark, "it would puzzle a monkey to climb that". The popular name became, first “monkey puzzler”, then “monkey puzzle”. Prior to 1850, it had been called Joseph Bank's Pine or Chile Pine in Britain even though it is not a pine. There are no native monkey puzzle trees in the United States. The natural monkey puzzle tree is now found in two small areas in the Andes mountains of Chile and Argentina. It is a highly fire-adapted species, occurring in an area where fires have long been caused by volcanic activity. The tree can grow in North America along the coastal zone from coastal Virginia, down the Atlantic, west through Texas and up the Pacific coast to Washington. The monkey puzzle tree is a coniferous evergreen with evenly spaced, horizontal spreading branches that arranged in whorls around the trunk. Sharp, densely spaced, triangular leaves cover the branches. The leaves are 1-2 inches long and can remain alive on the branches for 10 to 15 years. With age, the tree loses its lower branches and develops an irregular shape with a flattened crown. In its native habitat, this species can grow up to 100-feet tall and 30-feet wide. The fine-grained wood has been used for furniture, boats and paper pulp. Over-harvesting and wildfires led the Chilean government to declare the species a national monument in 1990. In addition to the wood from the monkey puzzle tree, the seeds are also a valuable resource. They were once a food staple for the Pehuenche Indians, whose name literally meant, "people of the monkey puzzle." Local inhabitants still eat the seeds as a source of carbohydrates. Today, monkey puzzle trees grow around the world as ornamentals. Monkey puzzle wood works easily, making it ideal for turning & carving.