No monkey business at Wakehurst

editorial image

Rare trees have been planted at Wakehurst after its experts travelled through leech-infested rainforests and a smoking volcano to gather seeds.

The 40 Araucaria araucana, better known as monkey puzzle trees, were grown using seed collected from one of Chile’s last viable coastal populations by Wakehurst experts.

Jo Wenham from Wakehurst gathering seeds in Chile

Jo Wenham from Wakehurst gathering seeds in Chile

The team led by Jo Wenham, plant propagation and conservation manager, made the trip in 2009 to hunt for rare and threatened plants and came back with more than half a million seeds from 80 different species.

Since then, some of the collected seeds were banked in the Millennium Seed Bank, whilst some, like the Araucaria araucana, have been propagated and were last week ready for planting by Jo and the team.

They mark the start of a new Chile area situated in Coates Wood at Wakehurst, near Ardingly, which will eventually mimic a walk up a Chilean mountain with 20 more different species, also collected by the team, propagated here and planted out over the next two years.

Jo said: “It’s really exciting for me and my colleague Chris Stubbings, to have been involved from the start of this project, in the hunt for and collection of the Araucaria araucana seeds right through to the planting today. And this is just the start of a project will will see many more seeds from Chilean threatened species propagated and planted here at Wakehurst.”

Ed Ikin, new head of horticulture and landscape said: “Wakehurst is a place of wild landscapes, where the plants of far-flung countries like Chile thrive in the rich soil and undulations of the High Weald. Our monkey puzzle grove will immerse our visitors in one of the iconic Chilean landscapes whilst delivering Kew’s mission to conserve threatened plants worldwide.”