by Jack Didier
I was walking through a park in northwestern Germany last year when I stumbled upon an old friend that reminded me of home: a Chilean pine, also known as a monkey puzzle tree. With many of these trees growing over 60 feet tall and full of branches lined with razor sharp, helically positioned leaves, one wouldn’t assume that this tree could be capable of giving much comfort - but the Chilean pine has always been a close friend of mine. In the 1960’s, these beautiful, unique trees had amassed such a following that they were actually distributed during the Seattle World’s Fair. 57 years later, many of those same trees are still thriving - my favorite of which can be seen on the southeastern side of Green Lake.
When I was a child, my aunt, who lived in the Midwest, was absolutely fascinated with Seattle’s monkey puzzle trees. She would routinely point them out whenever she visited - we even made a couple trips just to see one. Climate change has made life harder on these trees, but the Pacific Northwest is still one of their better habitats and she was always thrilled to be among them again. After recently returning from several years in California myself, I understand the feeling. I’m no arborist, but I can spot a Chilean pine a mile away - and I’m quick to send a picture to my aunt each time. This bizarre South American tree will always carry special meaning for me: it reminds me of home, of my family, and of my childhood. It connects me to those things whenever I see one - even in a random park in Germany.