History of Portland’s monkey puzzle trees

A golden sun casts warm light across a nursery filled with flowers, a yellow farmhouse, and a tall spiky looking tree

Photo via Cornell Farm

You’ve likely seen monkey puzzle trees (like the one in this picture by @cornellfarm) scattered around the Portland area — but have you ever wondered how they got here, or why they’re all about the same size? Cornell Farm recently shared the missing piece in this corner of Portland’s history puzzle.

To sum it up in a nutshell (pinecone?), the long-lived trees with scaly, curving bows are native to the Andes mountains + arrived in 1905 when the city hosted the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. Representatives from Chile brought hundreds of seedlings, which Portlanders took home and planted in their gardens.

The tree at Cornell Farm is old by human standards at nearly 120 — but it’s just a tyke compared to others in South America that have been alive for more than 1,700 years.

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