Friday, 16 April 2010

Monkey puzzle

Araucaria is a genus of tree with a number of living species, the best-known of which is Araucaria araucana - the monkey puzzle tree. My favourite tree, probably, if only for its name.

It's a bit of a survivor, this tree, as it's been around since the Jurassic. Araucaria mirabilis was growing in what's now Patagonia in Argentina around 210 million years ago. There used to be quite a lot of beautiful fossil cones from this locality on the market a few years back, but the source has dried up and new regulations have largely made Argentinian material a thing of the past for the fossil trade. There are still some floating around, though, and I have got some sliced cones - shown here. Quite nice, as you can see cross sections of the seeds, but not quite as satisfyingly tactile as the complete cone.

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