A tragic loss

I just got off the phone with my mother, where I heard the terrible news: a landmark of my youth, the gigantic monkey puzzle tree that held a prideful place in my grandmother’s front yard, has been cut down (my family had nothing to do with this crime, my grandmother died years ago and the house was sold to someone else). I quickly riffled through an old box of photos to see if I had any of that old tree, and no luck…so I’ll have to make do with this one from Google street view of the house on 1st Avenue in Kent, Washington.

I used to have mow around that giant scaly monster, and as kids we’d collect the strange-looking seed pods it would shed. And now its gone. It’s endangered, don’t they know? And this one was probably lonely without a mate. Oh, well, I was lucky to have known this one when I was growing up.


  1. Paul K says

    I had definite tree ‘friends’ when I was a kid. Unfortunately, the ones I remember best were elms, which lined our streets so close together that it was like living along a green tunnel. All are gone now. Dutch elm disease hit St. Paul in the late 70s. My first full-time paying job involved cutting down diseased elms to slow the spread of dutch elm. I’m glad it wasn’t in the neighborhood I grew up in.

  2. says

    Years later, when I read Shadow of the Torturer and got to the scene with the duel with the deadly avern, the sharp-edged venomous plant with the razor leaves that you would pluck off and throw at your opponent, I always pictured a branch of the monkey puzzle tree. I wonder if that was the inspiration for Gene Wolfe.

  3. brightmoon says

    I remember the big monkey puzzle that took over my grandmother’s front yard . I also remember having to pick up the dead branches with a pair of pliers . Dangerous tree but beautiful with those dark green leaves.

  4. brightmoon says

    I’ve got one of its relatives, a Norfolk Island pine as a little mini Christmas tree that a neighbor gave me after the holidays last year . I’m a plant lady and I guess he didn’t want to kill it.

  5. Jazzlet says

    I hope at least someone used the timber, I have some arucaria ‘shelves’ (bought before I knew it was endangered) made from window sill which are strong for their weight and have served me well for thirty years and some. The two of us carried the five lengths of sill home from Do-It-All on our shoulders, which was not a sensible idea. But it would have been far better to let both trees carry on growing.

  6. Ed Seedhouse says

    When I was a kid in the 1940’s and fifties, my dad’s dad had what seemed a mansion to my young eyes, and in the front yard was a Monkey tree (we never knew it was “monkey puzzle”). It seemed huge to me. It’s gone 55 years or so now, maybe 65, the memory is fading. Now my grandfathers mansion and all else that stood there is a parking lot with a burger joint on it.

    That’s progress…

  7. unclefrogy says

    @3 or a Holly their ivory needle tipped leaves are fierce. he only monkey puzzel tree I have ever seen lives at the L.A. County Arboretum I think it said on the name tag that in its home range the name was Bunya bunya which sounded very descriptive.
    I went to the street I grew up on with street view a while ago and was kind knocked back, all of the various tree on the whole block that were planted in the park way had bee removed probably so they could repair the side walks. I could hardly recognize anything
    uncle frogy

  8. Artor says

    I had no idea they were endangered. They’re not exactly common, but I can think of half a dozen I see regularly off the top of my head. Of course, considering how distinctive they are, that might skew my perception.

  9. kestrel says

    So sad to lose an old tree.

    We just lost an old black locust tree. The guy who cut down most of the tree told us it was at least 150 years old, possibly 200. The original farm house was probably built in the 1800s, perhaps about 1840 or so, and this tree must have provided shade for many many years for the house. We are trying to have things made from the wood to honor the tree. We were heart broken when we realized it was dying.

  10. microraptor says

    There was a huge redwood tree growing in the back yard when I was a kid- it was probably about four feet in diameter at the base. The year I went off to college, it blew down during a severe windstorm (fortunately it blew down away from the house, as it would have caused severe damage had it fallen the other way). Spent that spring break helping Dad cut it up with chainsaws and pack it off. The back yard still looks off without it.

  11. Derek Vandivere says

    I was also surprised to learn that they’re endangered, as they’re not uncommon as ornamentals here in NL and BE.

    Odd article, though – it seems to assume the UK is all there is of the world outside the Americas.

  12. Miserable Git Says says

    Damn you Myers. My Great Grandmother had one in her garden in the UK. Now you have made me all sentimental this afternoon