The journey of the monkey puzzle tree is inextricably bound to the spread of the British Empire

By Neil Griffin
The Tyee
November 4, 2022
Category: Forestry
Region: Canada, International

At the northern tip of Vancouver Island there is an unlikely kind of Eden. It is a refuge for rare plants from around the world, carved from the temperate rainforest. …It [includes] a Chilean import with a history dating back more than 200 million years. It’s called the monkey puzzle tree. …The monkey puzzle tree’s intersection with Vancouver Island began in 1795, at the end of George Vancouver’s five-year circumnavigation of the world. …Among George Vancouver’s officers was the expedition’s naturalist and surgeon, Archibald Menzies. Over the course of Vancouver’s journey, he collected and catalogued some 400 plant species, endearing himself to no one along the way. His diligence, or obsession, with plant collection lives on among names in the Pacific Northwest, most notably in the scientific name for the Douglas fir: Pseudotsuga menziesii. In the fad-chasing, cutthroat world of competitive English gardening, the striking new immigrant was an immediate success. 

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