Pedalpalooza: Monkey Puzzle Trees of NoPo

photo (9)The 2013 incarnation of Pedalpalooza came to a close last month, but we’ve got one more story to share from one of the rides.

Monkey Puzzle trees are amazing and I love them. What better chance do I have to share my enthusiasm for these magnificent trees than during a Pedalpalooza ride? I’m a new BTA intern and  this year I hosted a Monkey Puzzle tree ride to introduce fellow cyclists and Portlanders to some of my neighborhood’s Monkey Puzzles. These trees are a rare evergreen conifer that are native to Chile, Argentina, and the South-Central Andes Mountains. They can grow to massive heights with age and have a remarkably unique look. There are approximately 50 adult Monkey Puzzle trees around Portland today. This second annual Pedalpalooza ride explored some of the trees located in North and Northeast Portland. Our group of eight rode to 12 of these “living fossils” and chatted about the tree’s history, biology, and fun facts. We started at the Monkey Puzzle tree at Emanuel Hospital on NE Knott, between Vancouver and Williams and then proceeded to loop around for nearly 8 miles. I used a Google Map of Monkey Puzzle Trees Portland I found online, created by Carol Studenmund in February 2011 and updated as recently as May 9th, 2013.

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During our ride we encountered a Monkey Puzzle that was marked as a protected heritage tree in the NE neighborhood, of of NE 7th. We also found a young tree with a relatively short trunk that enabled us to inspect and even touch the tree’s branches. The most exciting thing about our ride though was when a kind neighbor introduced herself to the group and then proceeded to ask us if we were looking for the seedling in the yard we were at. Everyone was shocked! Monkey Puzzle trees reproduce by cross-pollination between male and female trees. This process is facilitated by the wind passing the male spores to female cones. This process only occurs if a male and female tree are in close enough proximity to one another, and because the trees in Portland are few and far between, it is surprising that a naturally occurring seedling was present.

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The whole group was shocked and super excited to discover this on the ride. Looks like the Google Map will need to be updated for the new little addition.  The ride was quite successful and I look forward to hosting again next year.

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