monkey-puzzle tree, evergreen tree (Araucaria araucana) native to Chile and widely cultivated elsewhere as an ornamental. The symmetrical branches have an unusual angularity and are completely covered by the stiff, overlapping leaves. The monkey-puzzle tree and related species—e.g., the Norfolk Island pine (A. excelsa) and the bunya-bunya, bunya, or bunya pine (A. bidwillii)—are all good timber trees. The edible seeds of the bunya-bunya are an important traditional food for Australia's aborigines. Species of Araucaria form the dominant vegetation of the coniferous forests of Chile and S Brazil. The related kauri pine (Agathis australis) of New Zealand is one of the largest commercial trees in the world, sometimes reaching 200 ft (61 m) in height. It yields good timber and the valuable kauri copal (often called Kauri gum), which was collected in fossil or semifossil form. Other species of Agathis produce similar copals. The genera Agathis and Araucaria together comprise the araucaria family. Although now restricted to the temperate regions of South America and of Australia and the neighboring Pacific islands, fossils—e.g., in the Petrified Forest of Arizona—indicate that the group was once abundant in the Northern Hemisphere. The monkey-puzzle tree and related species are classified in the division Pinophyta, class Pinopsida, order Coniferales, family Araucariaceae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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