Author delves into family’s past to tell story of ancient monkey puzzle tree
- Credit: Archant
In his first book, Araucaria – The Monkey Puzzle, Bluntisham author David Gedye tells how, on inheriting a collection of photographs of his great-great-grandfather’s monkey puzzle trees, he tracked down the history of his forebear Philip Frost and discovered he had a photograph of him standing beside the first monkey puzzle to be grown outside of Kew Gardens.
David also inherited the only known photograph of an original 1795 Archibald Menzies' tree and explained that "it was an exciting moment when I obtained the evidence that convinced me I owned a photograph of one of Menzies' original six trees".
David added: "The Menzies tree was given into my forebear's care by King William IV in 1830 and survived until the early 1900s."
During his research, David discovered that much that was written about the monkey puzzle's introduction into Europe was based on myth, and was misleading, and he decided to write a book to tell the true story of how the tree reached Europe and became a firm favourite of Victorian gardeners.
With 34 per cent of the world's conifers, including the monkey puzzle, at risk of disappearance due to climate change and habitat degradation, David has written the book to raise funds for the International Conifer Conservation Programme (ICCP) established at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh who, in conjunction with Edinburgh University and Universidad Austral de Chile, are setting up a research station in Chile and monkey puzzle forests in the UK to do research into conservation.
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The book takes readers through the story of the tree's introduction by the Spanish, who failed to bring back living trees in the 16th and 17th centuries, to Archibald Menzies who brought back the first living trees in 1795.
David tells of the role played by the Horticultural Society and their plant collector, James Macrae. It was his trees, collected in 1825, that kick started the Victorian craze for the tree.
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David said: "I am pleased to clear up the misinformation that has surrounded the monkey puzzle's introduction and to support the work being done by the ICCP to protect endangered tree species."
The book costs £25 plus £5 postage and can be purchased directly from the author on 01487 840963 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org