Monkeypuzzle (Araucaria araucana) is not a native tree in the UK. It’s native range are the mountain slopes of Chile and Argentina in South America and, in fact, it is the national tree of Chile. It is however quite popular as an ornamental tree in the UK, and can grow to substantial sizes, albeit not quite as tall as in its homeland. Owing to its use in the UK, it is not always available.
Monkeypuzzle belongs to the softwood family, i.e. it is a coniferous tree. It is also considered a living fossil, and is known to have existed more than 60 million years ago. The bark is quite thick and exudes a heavy, aromatic and very sticky resin when cut. However, the wood itself is completely free of resin, but can have a very high moisture content (in excess of 30% when freshly cut), making green wood quite heavy.
In its green state, this wood turns very nicely, and has almost no discernible smell. It shows the typical grain patterns of a coniferous tree, but holds shape well. Especially interesting pieces can be made where the branches grow through the trunk, as they show a sharply different, orange colour right from the pith.