Monday, February 21, 2011

Monkey Puzzle Tree

Little did we know what a prize we had when we moved into our house.  Towering over our front yard and roof (and sidewalk to boot) was a 50+ foot monkey puzzle tree.
While we did not love the tree, we figured it was sorta cool being that it had some history behind it.  The Monkey Puzzle Tree comes from Chili originally and was brought to Portland for the 1905 Lewis and Clark World Fair.  Pretty cool, eh?  Now these trees are gorgeous in the wild as seen below (image from here)
and are also really pretty when they are young trees or well-maintained.  valuable too; I have seen 12" starts at local nurseries for around $40.
this image from here
But ours was well, old and well, not pretty.  Kinda the sore thumb sticking out. Not that our landscape was well, landscape.  More just some concrete, shrubs and dead grass

The old monkey just engulfed the house.  So we were wondering what to do about it.  Cool tree but not looking so hot anymore.  Well, after a wind storm knocked a branch off onto the sidewalk, we knew we had to do something.  This was winter '07/'08.  The branch easily weighed several hundred pounds and would have killed anyone in its path.   The branches are spiny and sharp and can cut someone as well.
After having about 10 arborists out to give there verdict, we decided that it was time to cut the beast down.  Many arborists' said it was not healthy and had probably 5-10 years of life left as it was nearly 100 years old (after we cut it down we counted 96 rings, meaning 96 years old-just after the lewis and clark exposition) which probably meant that it was planted right when the house was built.  If we kept it, it would need a dead heading right away so that it was safe and dead branches would not continue to fall and possibly kill people.  Well, being that it was as much to dead head as cut the beast down, we decided that it was best to bring the king down.  We also were planning a full re-landscape in summer 2009 and the beast was not part of the plan.
However, we are eco-friendly people and the thought of just grinding and dumping the beast (gorgeous wood) was gnawing at our conscious-es.   So, I was able to find a company that came and harvested most of the trunk once we cut it down and even paid us a couple hundred as well!
Here are pictures of the beast coming down in Fall 2008.  It took a crew of four all day, and don't worry, all the wood that was ground (branches) were taken to the local wood recycler for re-use.


After it was all gone, the yard looked bare, but we were breathing a sigh of relief, and well, in my style, dreaming and talking of the next project...landscape (see here, here and here).
And my dad stole a little piece of stump (thanks for being sneaky) to make us this cool picture frame for Christmas 2009

 We even saved a couple pieces of the stump that we think will be cool to make something with someday-end tables???   Of course, they have now been outside for about 2 1/2 years so will need a good sanding, leveling and maybe some shellac on the top?  Luckily, they have been kept pretty dry so may even be pretty dry by the time we are ready to do a project with them.  Maybe put them in the retro 40s-50s basement when we remodel...that could be pretty dreamy :)
for now they make great old bike tire and rake storage

super cool lines where the branches grew out of the trunk
Did I mention that we are still reaping the "rewards????" of the beast?  When digging the hole for the japanese maple we planted in place of the beast or reigning king, we came across a 8-10" diameter root.  Digging that up was a bi-atch-pretty much broke a chain saw in the process. Also, we really fun to go around it when laying pipe for the sprinkler system.



    just ran into your blog as I was looking for driveway gates. Can't help but notice we have a very similar looking house and wondered if you had original plans for the interior. I have posted a link to images of our house. We live in Fort Worth, Texas. Love the blog!

  2. Blythe,
    We do not have the original plans but it does not appear that much has been altered other than a dormer upstairs being added probably in the 30s-we found some old newspapers in the walls. We also have an exterior door to the basement and it appears that was added at some point

  3. monkey puzzle trees are endagered, its a shame you cut it down ,it coulda out lived your family name, they live to be up to 1000 years ! shame on your ! trim it and make it safe ,but cmon you had a prehistoric giant !! dang ! edible nuts ! food source ! the resin is used for med. your story made me cry and prize my 100 year giant and all the 50 starts a year it provides

    1. I am so glad that you have been able to keep your monkey puzzle tree. As I wrote in the post, we had multiple arborists come to look at the tree and it was actually quite sick. They said that it would only live another 5-10 years. Trimming it would have only kept it safe for a couple more years (and cost us about 2K) before it died and we would need to cut it down. We felt that we made a good decision based on what multiple professionals reported to us.