What to visit / Science trails / Botanical trail through Barcelona's Parc de Montjuïc / The monkey puzzle tree that lived with dinosaurs
  • Monkey puzzle tree. Botanical trail through Barcelona

  • Monkey puzzle tree. Botanical trail through Barcelona

The monkey puzzle tree that lived with dinosaurs

Tucked away in a corner of the Jardins del Teatre Grec, next to a viewing point on the northern side, we glimpse the rounded canopy of a monkey puzzle tree, a species seldom found in the city. It is native to the coast of Queensland in Australia and has remained almost unchanged since the Jurassic period, 200 million years ago.

Monkey puzzles can grow to a height of 50 metres, but this wasn't enough for a tree that lived with dinosaurs to avoid being eaten by these giant beasts. This is thought to be why it developed leaves like the hard, spiny scales of a dragon, instead of needles. A member of the conifer family, it loses its lower branches and develops an umbrella-shaped canopy. This means that, if you want to see the leaves, it is easier to look around the base of the tree, where there are dry fallen leaves (be careful not to prick yourself when you touch them!) and the elongated male cones that produce pollen.

If you are patient and look between the branches, you may see the large female cones, which, when they mature, can be as big as a football and weigh more than 5 kilos. The Indigenous Australians in Queensland considered the monkey puzzle a sacred tree and gathered in monkey puzzle forests at the time the cones were maturing. They would climb the trees, shake off the cones and extract the giant pine nuts, which are highly nutritious and taste similar to chestnuts.

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