Monkey Puzzle

Geographic Distribution:

The wood commonly known as Monkey Puzzle is known to botanists and other scientists as Araucaria araucanaA. araucana is native to the Chile and Argentina.  A. araucana has also been widely planted as an ornamental tree outside of its native range.

For the sake of simplicity and common understanding, I will refer to A. araucana as Monkey Puzzle from here forward.

If you are curious, the common name Monkey Puzzle came about when the tree was grown from seeds in the United Kingdom the spiny bark was speculated to puzzle monkeys as to how to climb such a tree.

General Characteristics:

The heartwood of Monkey Puzzle is a light brown, sometimes with a yellow or red hue.  The paler sapwood isn’t clearly defined.  Monkey Puzzle is sometimes afflicted with blue/gray fungal staining, particularly if not dried properly.  In certain applications this staining is considered decorative, particularly when the wood also features contrasting reddish knots.

The grain of Monkey Puzzle is usually straight, with a fine to medium uniform texture.  Monkey Puzzle demonstrates a moderate natural luster.

Monkey Puzzle is rated as non-durable to perishable in terms of rot resistance and it has poor insect resistance.  As noted above, Monkey Puzzle is also susceptible to fungal staining.

Working Characteristics:

Clear sections of Monkey Puzzle are easy to work with hand and machine tools.  Sections of Monkey Puzzle with knots can be problematic and result in tearout or uneven sanding due to the difference in density of the two regions.

Monkey Puzzle glues, finishes, and turns well.

Monkey Puzzle has no characteristic odor.

Pricing and Availability:

International trade in Monkey Puzzle is highly restricted, with no trees being harvested from its natural range.  Occasional blanks are available from downed ornamental trees planted outside its natural range.  Expect prices to be moderately high for a domestic softwood.

In this blog, I almost always recommend several vendors with whom I have done considerable business and in whom I have great confidence.  These vendors are: West Penn Hardwoods, Bell Forest Products, NC Wood, WoodTurningz, Amazon Exotic Hardwoods, Griffin Exotic Wood, Exotic Woods USA, Got Wood?, and Wood Turning Blanks 4U.

Of these vendors, Wood Turning Blanks 4U is the only one offering Monkey Puzzle at this time.  They sell a range of bowl blank sizes ranging from 4″ up to 12″ x 4″ for $32.00.

Woodfinder is an excellent website that is dedicated to advertising wood dealers.  In your search for Monkey Puzzle this can be an invaluable resource provided you use multiple search terms to capture all the possible listings.  I can’t speak to the quality of any of the listed dealers, but Woodfinder does have the advantage of allowing searches to be performed based on location which might allow an interested buyer to visit a listed wood dealer in person to hand pick pieces at a comfortable price.

A significant problem with using Woodfinder is that many vendors are listed for woods that, upon further investigation, they do not offer.  I don’t know if perhaps once they did and they didn’t update their listings or if some vendors use a standardized list of woods that include most everything conceivable with the idea that once you land on their page you will find something you want to buy even if you didn’t know it beforehand.  It happens to me all the time!

Common Uses:

Monkey Puzzle is commonly used to make furniture, plywood, paper (pulpwood), turned objects, and small specialty wood items.


Monkey Puzzle is in CITES Appendix I (including finished wood products), and is on the IUCN Red List. It is listed as endangered due to having a natural area of occupancy of less than 500 square kilometers (less than 193 square miles), and the IUCN also estimates that the area is also severely fragmented and declining.