Looking for a fun, outdoor activity like no other? Let me tell you why a self-guided tour of Portland’s monkey puzzle trees should be your next adventure.
Monkey puzzle trees, Araucaria araucana, are one of the most unique looking species in our city. I remember the first time I noticed one I spent a moment second guessing whether it was real or not. We are lucky to live in a city with such a lush landscape that allows us to grow so many different plants and trees.
I stumbled across the monkey puzzle tree history and locations and realized this was a quirky, totally Portland activity to enjoy year round. Let me explain why you should go on a self-guided tour of Portland’s monkey puzzle trees to admire these incredible living beings with a rich history.
Portland’s Monkey Puzzle Trees
Native to the Chilean mountains, these evergreen trees have scaly, thick leaves that curve up into the shape similar to a monkey’s tail. What may seem puzzling about this species is its longevity. Once established, trees can live to be upwards of 1,000 years old. The leaves alone have a lifespan of up to 24 years. The journey these trees took to find their way to Portland is almost as peculiar as the trees themselves.
History in Portland
Here’s a brief history of how these trees ended up thriving in Portland (I promise it’s interesting).
It all started in 1905 at the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. The event grounds were built along Guild’s Lake, what is now Slabtown. The exposition was held for four months and featured exhibits from 21 nations and 16 states. One such exhibit for Chile gave away monkey puzzle tree seedlings. This led to the trees being planted around the city.
There is little that remains of this monumental event in Portland. Some exposition relics are found dotted across the city, including the Sacajawea and Jean-Baptiste statues in Washington Park, the American Inn condos, and the National Cash Register Building, which is the McMenamins St. Johns Theater and Pub. Possibly the most remarkable, and only living remnant, are the monkey puzzle trees.
If you want more on this fascinating slice of Portland history, read the full Wikipedia page about the exposition.
Today, monkey puzzle trees are found throughout the city. Some are even the original trees from the exposition.
There are three remaining trees from the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition that are formally recognized as Heritage Trees of Portland. You can stop by and seem them at these locations:
- 419 NE Hazelfern Pl.
- 415 NE Laurelhurst Pl.
- 446 NE Fargo St.
These are all located at private residences so admire from the sidewalk.
Monkey Puzzle Tree Tour
If what I’ve shared about these incredible trees has got you hooked, go on a self-guided tour of Portland’s monkey puzzle trees using this map.
Due to popularity, chances are you have a mature tree in your neighborhood. To help you on your tour of the monkey puzzle trees, Portlander Carol Studenman created a map that marks more than 70 tree locations throughout the city and metro area.
In the past, monkey puzzle tree enthusiasts have even hosted bike tours of the trees in Northeast Portland. I’ll be sure to share if those pop up again.
Plan your self-guided tour using this monkey puzzle map. Here’s where you can spot the trees:
If you happen to visit any of the trees on this map, share a photo with us in the comments below or on our Facebook group!