The Bunya-Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii)

by Byron Joel, oaktreedesigns.com.au


A mature bunya pine showing classic conical growing habit

Of all the striking aspects of the subtropical regions of Australia’s east coast, the landforms, the climate, the exotic fauna… few offer as immediately impressive a sight as a fully mature Bunya pine. Reaching a recorded height of 45m, with trunks like a sauropod’s leg and sporting cones bigger than a bowling ball, few things say ancient like a Bunya Pine.

The Bunya (bunya-bunya, bunyi, booni-booni or bonya in various aboriginal dialects), while indeed still a conifer, is not a true pine. It belongs to an ancient family of coniferous trees known as Araucariaceae. The greater Araucariaceae family, literally like something out of Jurassic Park, were distributed almost worldwide during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, becoming entirely extinct in the northern hemisphere toward the end of the Cretaceous and now found exclusively in the southern hemisphere, survived by approximately 41 species across three genera. Other members of the family include the iconic Kauri of New Zealand , the Norfolk Island Pine and Australia’s other ”living fossil” the Wollemi Pine. The Bunya shares the same genus with another good food source, Araucaria araucana, the Monkey Puzzle tree of Chile.

Although its timber has been discovered to be ideal for use in the production of acoustic musical instruments, its real potential comes in its already ancient role (and bright future) as a human food source.

The Bunya was of immense cultural significance to the life and food security of the Aboriginal peoples who lived in proximity to it. Every year the trees would produce a small yield of nuts and every three years or so a bumper crop so large as to support clan gatherings of hundreds and very possibly thousands of Aboriginal people over the harvesting months. It was at these gatherings, feasting on the nuts, that they would perform activities such as extra-tribal ceremonies, settle disputes, trade goods and arrange marriages.

The value of the nut as food was not lost on the settling Europeans, reminding them of the Chestnuts from home.

The cones shed their seeds which are sweet before being perfectly ripe, and after that, resemble roasted chestnuts in taste. They are plentiful once in three years, and when the ripening season arrives… the aborigines assemble in large numbers from a great distance around, and feast upon them. Each tribe has its own particular set of trees, and of these, each family has a certain number allotted, which are handed down from generation to generation with great exactness… The food seems to have a fattening effect on the aborigines, and they eat large quantities of it after roasting it at the fire… Contrary to their usual habits, they sometimes store up the Bunya nuts, hiding them in a water hole for a month or two. — J. Maiden in ‘Forest Flora of New South Wales’ 1889


A bumper crop of Bunya cones


A council sign in Perth warning of the
potential dangers of falling cones

Aboriginal peoples traditionally ate the nuts raw, roasted or stored them underground in wet mud, which is believed to have improved the flavor as well as extended their length of availability. Europeans used to boil them with their corned beef. In fact to this day a favorite means of preparation is to boil them in brine, giving their otherwise nutty, warm flavour a salty, savoury edge. Boiling is the recommended means of preparation, as methods like roasting tend to dry the flesh out. An exact nutritional breakdown of the nut is hard to find. Wikipedia (yes I know, I’m sorry…) states the nuts are ”40% water, 40% complex carbohydrates, 9% protein, 2% fat, 0.2% potassium, 0.06% magnesium” and contains approx. 32 calories. The flesh of the nut is very similar to that of the Chestnut — low oil, high starch. Being gluten free, perhaps there is a market for Bunya flour?

Bunyas can be unpredictable in their germination. On a recent trip to the Australian National Arboretum in Canberra I spoke to Adam Burgess, a fellow Araucariaceae enthusiast and head curator, to help shed some light on the subject.

Once planted, a seed may take one month to germinate. It may take eighteen. They have what’s called a cryptogeal seed formation. Upon sprouting, the seed sends a shoot downward, usually until it encounters a harder surface. There it forms a tuber. This tuber can sit dormant for months at a time, waiting, it is assumed, for optimal growing conditions. From here the roots and stem develop.


Up to 500 times the mass of a regular pine nut

Adam also spoke to the need for further investigation into the Araucariaceae at large.

To be honest there’s a gaping hole in the research. We really don’t know that much about them. Take the Wollemi (Wollemia nobilis) for instance. It’s been mass marketed to the public but by asexual propagation (cuttings) with extremely mixed results. Research bodies are only just now starting to do more thorough work with seedlings and asking more questions. Do other Araucariaceae have this tuber-producing habit? What is its true purpose? Do other species’ tubers hold potential value as food? There’s a whole undiscovered world underneath these trees. It’s interesting — fun — this kind of research and observing how large and powerful a Bunya Pine can get. They can be so unpredictable. One day you throw a Bunya nut in the compost and see nothing for six months then suddenly there’s a nine inch tap root poking out. Obviously it had stalled, waiting for optimum conditions but as to what those parameters are, we’re still unsure.


Dozens of nuts per cone

When establishing a tree of such eventual size and weight a good root system is a seriously important point to consider. When many large trees sprout, Bunya included, they send down a large main tap root, or ‘radical’ root, far into the ground, primarily as a point of anchorage. Failure to establish a healthy, deep tap root can see trees toppled over by forces like wind, which they may otherwise have been impervious to. Often, common tree nursery techniques are not so appreciative of these points — raising their to-be-large trees in pots too small, for too long, causing root binding and rendering their tap roots all but useless. There are ways around this. Two good systems come to mind.

One: Rocket Pots and Racks. Developed by Australian horticulturalist, Peter Lawton, the rocket pot and accompanying flood rack system is a way to grow tree crops in a regular nursery environment while ensuring that the usual issues of becoming root bound are avoided. Trees are germinated in pots with many holes in them. Once the tree’s roots, taproot included, reach one of the holes they are ”air pruned” and stop growing, effectively going into a stasis. Later, when the trees are planted, those roots, with their delicate growing tips still intact, continue their growing process outward, away from the stem, unimpeded by the impervious plastic membrane of most pots — those that send roots around and around in search for extra space to grow. Instead of the usual overhead sprinkler systems, flood irrigation is provided, encouraging the roots to chase the water downward as it recedes during the drainage cycle.

Two: Direct seeding. Ideally, I believe Bunya should be direct seeded. Its unpredictable sprouting time, unusual tuber-forming habit and variable root production can make for a hard time judging when a seedling needs potting on or planting out. Efforts taken to minimize predation by rodents, etc., and protection from the harsher elements, will of course boost strike rates. Try setting up staked, plastic tree guards on bare, weed-free ground. Place a bunya seed on the bare ground and cover with simulated forest litter, leaves, straw or even perhaps pieces of the Bunya cone casing. Safe from rodents and protected from the elements, this should allow the seeds to germinate at their own rate and send a strong, healthy tap root straight down as deep as they can. Water as the site conditions suggest.


A bunya sapling at the PRI Zaytuna Farm

This species’ wide potential range is one of the reasons it is so exciting. Originally spread throughout the once much moister Australasian land masses, it has in recent geological history been refined to the humid subtropics of southeastern Queensland and northern New South Wales (Brisbane – 27.4679° S), and isolated pockets existing in north Queensland (Townsville – 19.2564° S). However, due to its obvious attraction to botanists, specimens have found their way into parks and botanic gardens worldwide for over 200 years. I have personally seen it fruiting as far south (poleward) as the Royal Botanic Gardens in cool temperate Hobart, Tasmania (42.8806° S). Mr. Geoff Lawton has told me he has seen it in semi-arid Cairo, Egypt (30.0500° N) and I have also seen it fruiting happily in the classically mediterranean climate of Perth, Western Australia (31.9522° S). There are reported Bunya in California, Mexico, Dublin, Portugal, Italy, Spain, South Africa, Chile, Indonesia…. That’s quite a spread.

Adam Burgess adds:

‘Here in Canberra we’ve planted over six hundred Bunya seedlings in a monocultural planting and here we can experience extremes from -10ºC in winter to 30ºC in summer, all on a relatively dry site in a part of the world which has quite unpredictable rainfall — and these seedlings are doing very well here. There are local mature trees here over a hundred years old, planted by ex-governors and botanists, and they fruit heavily every few years. It seems all but impervious to the frost, even when young. It gets a shock, and its foliage turns a copper green/brown, but it soon bounces back. As far as we can tell it is immune to Phytophthora issues, whereas the Monkey Puzzle and Wollemi can’t handle it at all. From the full tropics to the cold temperate and everything in between, they are ridiculously hardy.

Of all the many ideas relevant to Permaculture, of all the subsets of information we explore, trial and discuss, it is this author’s opinion that perennial staple crops are amongst the most important — deserving more attention and recognition as a major point of transition. It behooves us to move from an annual, grain-based, staple crop agriculture, with all its inputs, fragilities and destructive side effects, into a (relatively) low input, high yield, multi generational, perennial staple crop polyculture system. Besides the immediate yield of food there are of course the added ecologically restorative benefits like erosion control, carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat, etc. All these factors have been well discussed. Given their size (and potential ballistic dangers), bunya are ideal for the Zone 4/5 edge. Imagine vast groves of them established along the fringes of a city or village’s farthest edges of activity. Hyper-hardy once established, they could be all but ignored and returned to, if need be, only during times of harvest (wearing helmets!) to collect the starch-rich staple nuts, and then brought back to town, processed or roasted and eaten on the spot. Who knows, it’s just a thought!


A young bunya at the PRI Zaytuna Farm

Whichever humid climate zone you may find yourself in, there is a chance that a bunya pine has made its way there. It may be as easy as going to a local retail nursery, or you may have to go and enquire at the nearest botanical gardens. However you do it, it’s well worth the while of future inhabitants of the area in which you live that specimens be found and awareness of this amazing tree ally be raised.

Watch this space for a recent interview I did with Beverly Hands, the traditional Aboriginal caretaker of the Bunya Pine and re-initiator of the ancient Bunya festival.

References:

  1. The Complete Book of Fruit Growing in Australia, Louis Glowinski, Hatchet Publishing, 1991
  2. Mabberley, D. J. 2001 ‘Bidwill of the bunya-bunya’, Curtis’ Botanical Magazine
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Araucaria_bidwillii, (I know, I know… Please forgive me…)
  4. Chisholm, A. H. 1920. The Bunya Range Excursion, Royal Australasian Ornithologists’ Union,
  5. Discovering Fruit and Nuts, Susanna Lyle, Landlinks Press, 2006
  6. J. Maiden in ‘Forest Flora of New South Wales’ 1889

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106 thoughts on “The Bunya-Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii)

  1. We would love to try to grow this in (sub)tropical Paraguay where the temperature ranges from -1 to 40ºC. If someone would love to send us a few seeds or point us to a source we would be grateful because it would be a good addition to the few nuts (Macadamia and Peacan) that are grown here locally.

    1. Give me an address and il post them to you.
      We are in harvest now and if I can find some already germinated in the cone il send em over in a wet bag. Otherwise dry will have to do

      1. Hi J,

        Thank you so much for the offer! Here is our snail mail address:
        Douglas Dütting & Monica Aguayo
        Dr. Camacho Dure 311
        Barrio Trinidad
        ASUNCION, Central 1735
        PARAGUAY

        1. Hi guys, jusht aboutn to send off a batch of nuts to you.
          Germinating them is actually quite easy. Keep them quite moist (covered with a wet cloth) in a dark place should do the trick.
          THe first root will bend. Plant it with point facing down with the nut covered by as deep soil as it is high rich soil best, not too much clay. As long as the soil doesnt dry out too extremely should be good.
          Any questions just ask. Im sending enough for a nice grove of bunyas.
          Also, I’ve been trying to get my hands on some Auracaria Angustifollia (Paranya Pine) candelabra tree because i want to grow mate under it but there are none i can find in australia.
          Would you be able to send some seeds over here.
          Cheers
          J.

          1. Hi J,
            We are looking for Auracaria Angustifollia as well. There is only one tree nearby that we know of and we don’t know if it grows seed pods yet. Even in the nearby botanical gardens we have not found one yet. In Paraguay finding your seeds is literately stumbling on plants/trees with seeds or through friends because this is a very monocultural society that lacks the ‘cleverness’ of the Brazilians. We may have to travel to the south of Brazil to find and buy Auracaria Angustifollia because they commercialize them even though they wiped out much of their habitat as well, the never ending story.
            Let us hope the seeds arrive soon and that we will find the other type soon as well so we return the great favor.
            Keep on growing,

            Doug

            1. Many thanks J!
              You and the Australian mail did an excellent job but this is Paraguay so something caused a delay along the line here that I hope will not lead to a big disappointment. You sent it on the 14th of February. It seems to have arrived on the 28th. I received the notification from my mailadress on the 2nd of April! :( Planted them (23) on the 4th after picking them up at the postoffice. There is mail that never arrives here, However the float test showed us that 1 of the 25 had gone bad and 1 was doubtful which was tasted. Now we hope for the best after this delay and we keep you updated. In the meantime we visited the owner of the Pinho that is just a few blocks from here. A tree that has a nice height but not being especially cared for. The son of the owner told us the tree was more than 40 years old but never produced fruits. We were the first people to inquire about its nuts opposed to others who were only interested in cutting it down for its wood… The search continues. Muchas gracias.

          2. Hi J,
            I’m from Brazil, Parana State, where the Auracaria Angustifollia grows.
            I grew up eating the seeds (pinhão) boiled, and I used to eat it every year. That’s one thing I’m going to miss a lot from there. If you find it here in Aulstralia please let me know.
            I’m also curious to taste the Australian seeds. Do you know where can I buy it?
            Anyway, I not sure if it’s allowed to bring any seeds from Brazil to grow this tree here, the customs may not allow to protect Australian flora, but I’m not sure.
            I’m going back to Brazil in late May and return on June, I’m going to check if it’s possible to import these seeds to Australia, maybe I can bring some. :)
            Cheers,

            1. Hey man,
              Our season ended a few months ago. There are still some seeds for sale from northern rivers north but they are probably old by now. If you can find some frozen your in luck. The best way to get the seeds in would be by mail from brazil. Customs are likely to confiscate them if you bring them in person. Paranya pine would pose no danger to our environment as we already have auracaria forests and im not letting it go wild. We do have government instituted monkey puzzle forest on the mid north coast as a bio bank both to test the species for our climate and have a reserve should wild stands overseas become extinct. I’d be doing that on a small scale. Also the people who work for customs at airports have a lot less knowledge about the Australian ecosystem than the folks using this forum. Man, I’m so keen to try them, bunyas are awesome when cooked the right way. They only last a month fresf so you got to get em in season which we get a big harvest every few years. But there will be some next January.
              Cheers man, J

              1. Quarantine at an airport will confiscate most things they do not understand but in the post where they get time to check em out and find they’re ok. The seeds will get let through.

                1. Dear J – We live about an hour from Cape Town and would love to plant some bunya bunya trees.Can you help us? Best wishes – Bruce

                2. Hi Bruce. If mine come up this year which they should, then il be happy to send you one but, if they dont and you dont want to wait then youd be better off getting a nurserey to post you a few seedlings as depending on the seasons it could take a few years for my next harvest.

      2. I would like to grow some of these in the fairly subtropical southern Alabama, U.S.

        It freezes sometimes in winter must most of the time its either very mild or quite hot and humid, do you think it would work?

      3. I would realy like to plant these seeds. Would you? Could you, ‘please send me good seed? You can E-MAIL me let me know what cost is going to be. I live in the USA. I’ll tell you where when you E-MAIL me. Thank you for your time. sign James Kennedy

      4. I feel the need to not only preserve but return this beautiful tree to all the places in world. I would like to have some seeds please.
        My address is
        15 -Dwarikapuri,
        Sector – 8, Indira Nagar,
        Lucknow, U.P.
        India. 226016

      5. Hi I have a Bunya Pine that to my knowledge is about 30yrs old so still only about 7mtrs or so tall. A year or so ago it started to curl over on the ends of each branch and the ends are now all curled and stuck together and the tree is quite brown all over.one side of the tree this summer has just started to sprout new shoots but they are quite deformed. Is there a disease or insect that would cause this. One person told me that if any poisons were even opened near them that it would kill the tree but is still sprouting but ever so slowly. it gets quite a few nuts on it but they don’t seam to produce much and blow down when they are still quite small im guessing because the tree is still quite young or underdeveloped. I live in the outer Toowoomba Qld region.I hope you can give me some answers I can send pictures if you send me an e-mail address. Thanks Renae.

  2. So…are these fruits/seeds/trees are not new, but…? Do aboriginals know about these? It just strikes me as odd that something as possibly nutritious and useful as this has so much unknown about it. Thank you for introducing this amazing plant. Now I am curious to learn more.

  3. I loved your segment on these remarkable majestic trees.
    We have huge ones growing here in North East Victoria. They certainly have a awe inspiring presence.like old grey elephants of the forest. They line the side streets of Bright and Beechworth. One huge one stands proud in a local Wangaratta chuch grounds. In Wangaratta a long time ago the council of the day planted a few streets with a carob trees from which i have havested the beans and grown many trees and planted them on
    organic farms. I have eaten them from the boiling method.

  4. Bunya Bunyas are common in the old parks in Argentina, you also find the Pehuen A. araucana but is less common. Ive also grown A angustifolia very tropical from S Brazil etc. Good overstory for cacao say the analog forestry folks.

    1. Hi, Jeremy from Australia. Would you be able to send over some a. Angustifolia seeds or seedlings for a permaculture project in northern nsw. Happy to pay sHipping. I’ve been trying to find them here for months, no dice.
      Angustifolia is the best over story for mate :)
      Cheers
      J

      1. Did you get some? In melb here, one near us has just dropped a load of seeds (yum yum fun)… I can sen you some if no avail. I’m renting at the mo, going to try germing some in long, fat, capped pipe with air holes.

  5. Great article Byron. Fabulous family of plants. My 3 Bunyas are approaching 30 years old. I suggest another 20 may see them fruit. My Pinus Pinea produced cones at 15. I am however more than happy to be around for my bunyas to produce their cones

  6. Hi Byron

    Thanks for the article. You and Geoff put me right on to the value of these trees when I did my PDC at the Channon. I especially appreciate the effort you made to supply me with the seeds that you did, you went out of your way to do it and explain how to plant them, despite being nutso busy – that didn’t go unnoticed.

    Thanks again

    Scott

  7. Here you go lillygrillzit:

    As the fruit ripened, locals, who were bound by custodial obligations and rights, sent out messengers to invite people from hundreds of kilometres to meet at specific sites. The meetings involved ceremonies, dispute settlements and fights, marriage arrangements and the trading of goods. The Aborigines’ fierce protection of the trees and recognition of the value of the timber, led to colonial authorities prohibiting settlers from cutting the trees in the 1842. The resource was too valuable, and the aboriginals were driven out of the forests along with the ability to run the festivals. The forests were felled for timber and cleared to make way for cultivation.

  8. Hello I am currently in Perth, WA but I am moving to Kenya later in the year and starting a permaculture farm. Where can I get seeds and more detailed instructions n seed storage and germination.

    Regards

    Jeannine

  9. Hi Byron – thanx for a most interesting article …you mention their are Bunyas in South Africa … any leads ? I would LOVE to get some seed …

  10. Lovely to read your article about such an important tree. I have 2 Bunyas here in Brasil together with A. angustifolia which is native here. for years I ran my sheep under Araucarias in the mountains in Minas gerais state. They grew fat and healthy; rushing from tree to tree as the cones fell. we made flour from the seeds, cut into quarters and dried in the sun. Then ground up and the flour mixed with wheat flour. We also eat them boiled. It would be good to get some leaves from beneath a grown tree , for the micorhiza that is there. it helps the trees grow faster and healthier. A handful is enough. Thanks for the article Regards Pete

  11. Have planted about 700 bunya trees near Gympie, most are doing well. I throw a few nuts in my frypan with my dinner each night, quite nice.

    1. Hey Conrad! Wow 700 that sounds awsome! Would love to see a plantation like that! How old r they and how talk r they now? I’m from near Port Macquarie and am wanting to plant out a plantation!
      Thanks!

  12. Wow, I was researching this tree so I could cut it down. I am in the USA. Maybe I should keep it? I have two of the bunya cones now.

    1. Do you have kids and (potentially) grandkids?
      Obtain a 100 year lease in one of the remote valleys east of San Diego on I-80. Germinate your seeds, plant a grove and leave it as a vacation spot and heritage for your progeny,

  13. these nuts are somewhat resinous if boiled or baked but as they are so prolific here where I live in the centre of their home country Maleny Queensland and am now harvesting cones off trees I planted about 15 years ago I needed a way to both keep them from year to year and make them a more versatile source of nutrition. I found that by cutting the seed and the shell they are protected by in half length (after husking them out of the cone) they can be dried in a standard dehydrator overnight. the dried half seeds can then be kept literally for over a year without deteriorating. This contrasts to a shelf life of only a few weeks fresh. It also removes the resinous flavour and makes them into a fantastic gluten free grain. They can be easily processed into flour and make an excellent high protein grain flour. So far I have made wonderful porridge, pancakes thickening for soups and am about to get more adventurous with cookies and crackers. One days work can provide you with enough grain to make all the flour you could use in a year! The secret as Pete Webb also found it to dry them first. As for the cutting I have found in half is good enough if you are using a dehydrator which in our climate is essential at the time of year they usually fall – Jan – April usually but varies a lot with the seasonal rains. I use a sharp anvil type lopper and you can as I say cut and process a years worth of grain type food in one day. I will do a youtube clip to show how easy it is to process them. By the way when they are dried I have seen figures of 18% protein but just did a search and couldn’t find this on the web anywhere but it makes sense if you remove the water component you quoted from Wiki you will have at least this number. Ie a better grain than prime hard wheat! thanks for the article

    1. Hi Dean, I’m looking at planting possibly hundreds of trees, but am reallytrying to find out how long the will take to fruit? U said 15y which is the shortest time iv heard. Iv heard of people waiting over 30 and still nothing, but thought that could possibly be due to not having both male and female trees?
      What the usual age u have found them to fruit? Any earlier than 15? Thanks!

  14. Hi Byron, I liked your article I have a bunya tree right outside my house. Right now the nuts are falling and again I gaze into the heights of the tree, trying to see where they are growing, but I have never seen one on the tree. Do they grow at the end of branches, or close to the trunk?

  15. Just collected 5 large nuts from a tree in Stanthorpe border of NSW/QLD today, I’m going to plant about 30 seeds. Hopefully my grand children will enjoy the taste in 50 years

    1. You won’t have to wait that long if they are planted amongst other trees in a rainforest type situation. i have 4 trees all planted 15 years ago that all fruited this year so depending on how old you are and where you live and how you treat them you may get a lot of valuable food in your lifetime, but your kids and grandchildren will also thank you I’m sure! Unless you plant them near a building or recreation area or path. they are very prickly devils and the falling nuts are definitely more dangerous than coconuts!

  16. I live in Heidelberg, Victoria (Australia), and I’ve just heard that someone iin Ivanhoe is applying for a Concil permit to remove a 150 years old bunya from their garden, because some of the cones have damaged some stuff in the neighbour’s garden. Are those trees on the heritage list, or are they so common their application is likely to succeed?

    1. There is a Heritage listed Bunya Bunya at The original Row family Stamford Park Homestead in Rowville,currently dropping nuts.

  17. Hi, We have bunyas on our property near Cooroy Qld and planted out about 20 seedlings that had germinated under the trees. They are doing well. Then i planted about 100 seeds in a garden bed but only about 40 germinated. recently I planted 25 of them but due to lack of rain. several look as if they won’t survive. I give them a soaker watering twice a week but they are in the open and it’s very hot weather. Anything else i could do for them?

    1. they are adapted to survive and grow in deep shade so cut some branches and push into the ground around each of them. If and when the wet season arrives this year they will then be fine. just remember that they have a very deep tap root and are really difficult to transplant without damaging that as it can go down 50 or 60cm even when there are just a few green leaves on top. Also they seem to grow very slowly for the first couple of year in any case and then suddenly take off. this could suggest there is a mycorrhizal association but i haven’t seen any research on that so its only speculation. what i do know though is that they love rough mulch (cut up branches and leafy branches and really don’t do well in lawn or grass.

    1. Interesting question Steven, the Bunya was around before the Jurassic period when mammals would have been quite scarce. Even before any effective animal dispersal though, Bunya cones would have spread fairly effectively because they bounce off the springy branches as they fall and disperse both up hill and down pretty effectively especially if they are very ripe and break open as they land. They often fall without breaking open immediately though and in this case they can roll down hill for up to 20 m or more. It is likely however that some species of dinosaurs may have eaten and accidentally dispersed the nuts, especially after the cones start to rot they are fairly accessible to animal predation and so would have been a great source of protein and carbs for large vegetarians with strong grinding teeth that could crush the fibrous shells. Simply kicking the rotting cones a metre or so exposes the nuts as easy pickings and given the long time periods the dinosaurs coexisted with Bunyas and could have fed on them – at least 100 million years, a single tree could have spread seeds against the natural gravity gradient at lease 1m/year so this could explain why they were so widely spread by the end of the Jurassic. After the mass extinction 66 million years ago predation by mammals would have greatly increased. If those wary little nocturnal seed thieves were anything like the bush rats that are the main seed predators today then their method is as follows. Dash into the open where the seeds are exposed and grab one seed of the many that are there. Then carry or drag that seed to a safe secluded place nearby and hide it. Then go back for more and more and carry them back to the same secluded spot. Bush rats will hop into a late tub I keep the Bunya nuts in and toss them up over the side. They take them at least 10 m away if necessary to a place where they feel safe to then gnaw through the shells and feast on the nuts, but they can only get through about 5 or six nuts in a night before they are stuffed. They then scamper off to a safer daytime hole leaving the uneaten nuts for the next night. (They do the same kind of thing with macadamia nuts.) It is easy to see that if they happen to get eaten by a python that night then the dispersed bunya nuts may be able to germinate many meters away from where they landed – provided another sharp nosed rat doesn’t find them. I have observed that if a python takes up residence in my workshop while it digests a meal near my Bunya nut tub, no rats come near until it leaves! The large size of the Bunya cone with up to 150 seeds in it is a sure sign that they evolved with most of them getting eaten buy seed predators. Humans were very late to join this ancient feast.

  18. Thanks for the article! There is a mature Bunya in the gardens at University of Melbourne (Burnley Campus). They have blocked off a path due to the falling cones but i went in and collected some nuts yesterday : ) I’m roasting them and saving the best for seed!

  19. In the garden where I work we have a few Bunyas which are around 150 years old. We’ve had a bumper crop from one of them this year and I’ve saved the seeds. A couple of them had started sprouting in the cone so I have popped them in some pots. But on reading this, could I have them upside down? Is it the root or the shoot which first emerges from the seed? It looks very much like a shoot (similar to a bulb). Is anyone able to offer some advice so I can flip them if need be? I’ve got over 100 seeds so far so I’m just storing the rest of them. Might have to roast a few after reading all these comments!

    1. Allison I think this article explains how there is a root that emerges from the nut and it turns around no matter which direction the nut is facing and pushes into the ground like a tap root. The embryo then transfers through this “root” and down into the ground. This forms a little tuber like structure under the ground. After the nuts nutrient reserves are exhausted and transferred into the tuber the shoot and true taproot emerges from this tuber. It can take more than a year for this to happen, so as suggested above if you are direct seeding, which is a good way to get strong plants with a powerful taproot then you need to use a guard or some other robust and durable rodent protection or you won’t get to first base which is forming the cryptogeal “seed” tuber. The radicle you see coming out of the nuts as they germinate is a bit like the pegs produced by peanuts that are used to burry the fertilised embryo into the planting position where it will eventually germinate. I don’t know if the Bunya tubers are edible or not as I have never tried them and haven’t come across anything to indicate that they are. My hunch is that it would be even more resinous in taste than the small embryo in the nut. Hope that helps.

      1. The tuber and other root shoots are definitely edible. In the article where he says they were stored In mud and underground, this was to germinate the seed which would be eaten later. They are rather pungent as anyone who has germinated seed in their kitchens will testify but were considered a delicacy. You could always tell if someone had been eating them from the smell.
        Alison, that shoot is a root and will turn downwards no matter what so while you may have planted them upside down originally, best to leave the nuts now as they will have readjusted.

  20. I’d suggest anyone who wants to plant the Bunya Pine seeds to take care and protect them from wild animals. I’ve planted 40 seeds about two month ago but all of my had efforts got excavated and eaten by a gormless possum over one night. I would suggest to surround the seeds by sharp metal spikes similar to the ones that keep birds away.

  21. Hi does anyone know were I can buy large quantitys of monkey puzzle seeds( Araucaria Araucana) I will pay good price for a 1000 danny

  22. Hi Dean,

    Thanks for the info – just wondering, I was given a handful of seeds earlier this year. I have put a few in some pots (nothing has happened) and are saving the rest for when I have some land. How long will they keep for? I heard that after a month they are bad but is that only for eating?

    Also – what is the average time from seed to a fruiting tree? in the comments someone mentioned that they had one fruiting after 15 years! awesome

    Thanks so much

  23. I have a block in the Strzeleckis where we thought we might try a few bunyas to see how they go. Rainfall and soil are good but might be a bit cool. (Altitude is about 200m.) Has anyone had success with direct seeding ie planting the seed in the ground? I could put a bit of brush over the spot to keep wombats off the seedlings if any sprout.

  24. We live in Mill Valley, CA, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, and have a huge, beautifully shaped bunya bunya in our front yard. There are also bunyas north of us in San Rafael and in Petaluma, CA. Our tree came from the 1915 World’s Fair in San Francisco. It drops an abundance of cones, beginning August 28th at the earliest. One broke our car windshield. Last period, 3 years ago, after 30 had fallen, we had a tree company cut down the rest, and over 100 cones were produced that year. We love the tree, but the heavy cones have demolished flowers, our balastrade, put holes in our hedges, etc. Is there a way to cut the cones without letting them drop and bombard everything below? We do love the tree, especially for its bird habitat. Cat’s hang out below but never climb it, yet squirrels run about in it. I have boiled the seeds, which had a unique flavor, but a lot of hassle to fix. And for the first time ever, little bunya are sprouting up in our yard.

    1. Jeanie, I live in Oregon and would love to have a go at growing Bunya trees. When you have fresh seeds available, would you mind sending me some? Thanks.

  25. Update from Paraguay. Nothing happened for a long time although most or all seeds we received seem to have germinated and formed their underground bulbs. But today I noticed one pot with a sprout above ground! Upon checking the others we found two more! In the meantime we located someone who wants to share his seedpods of Araucaria angustfolia with us, if there are any this season.

  26. I live in San Jose California, and am a member of the Rosicrucian Order A.M.O.R.C. In our park (Rosicrucian Park) we have one of the most incredible Bunya Bunya Pine trees. It was planted way back in 1927 by H.Spencer Lewis the founder of the Rosicrucian Order here in California. The tree is about 100 feet tall and really incredible to see. It is VERY prolific with dropping it’s huge heavy cones, so we have to make sure we keep the area clear so no guests get injured from the falling cones. A couple of years ago the tree went crazy and it produced over 300 cones just in ne season. One of our members will take the nuts, and make the best pancakes out of them. If you are ever in San Jose I encourage you to visit Rosicrucian Park and visit our very special and well loved Bunya Bunya Tree.

  27. Hi J, I am wondering if you could send couple of seeds of Bunya to Europe – Czech Republic? Thank you for info. Cheers David

    1. Hi David, this is going to be a long shot, but having read your request today, by a strange coincidence I came across some freshly fallen bunya cones on a vacant plot close to my home on the outskirts of Sydney. The seeds look fine (but I am no expert). As it happens I will be going to Geneva at the end of this week and am happy to take a handful of seeds along and mail them to you when I get there, provided I receive an address for despatch.

      This

  28. Hi!
    We just purchased a Bunya yesterday while looking for a Christmas tree. I’m reading up on it– But I’m a little confused.. the man who was helping kept going back and forth between telling us about Bunya and then it’s cousin The Money Puzzle so that NOW I’m not 100% sure of what we have.. tho by the looks, it seems a Bunya. NOW to figure out where to bed this future giant down! We live on a small farm in NE Florida, USA. 9a region, a bit Sub-tropical with some cold spells. I’m excited to read so much about this beauty.. especially that she has edible part! I would love to try out making a flour from the seed… it sounds interesting! I’m curious as to the size of trunk we can expect and if she’s a slow or rapid grower. We did learn she’ll get to about 120ft tall! another factor on where to bed her down. I really hope she takes here. Thank you for your page adn good information! you’re a keeper!!
    sincerely– Magi Trotman

  29. Does anyone know if Bunya nuts are acidic or alkaline to eat? They’re the best nuts to eat, but I have to watch my dietary acid levels!

  30. Hi – just an update on our baby purchased and planted on Dec. 20, 2014– she has already grown a nice little 1″ topper. she seems to like where we put her and beginning to thrive.!! is there a way for me to post a picture in here to share?

  31. Hello, Friends from Australia and others!
    Presenciei, aqui no Brasil (Curitiba – Parana State), pelo menos uns cinco exemplares de Bunya-Bunya Pine produzindo cones. Primeira vez que vejo isso, as pinhas (cone) são impressionantes!
    Aqui há muitas A. angustifolia, são naturais aqui (Parana-Pine), fazem parte da paisagem do lugar.
    Parabéns pelos artigos e pelos comentários de todos!
    Congratulations for all, friends!

    PRI inserted google translate-
    I witnessed here in Brazil ( Curitiba – Parana State ) , at least five copies of Bunya Bunya Pine – producing cones. First time I see it , the pine cones ( cone) are awesome!
    Here there are many A. angustifolia , are natural here ( Parana – Pine ) , are part of the landscape of the place .
    Congratulations on the articles and comments of all!

    1. Robson, qual a localização desses exemplares? Eu estou fazendo um catálogo com todos os exemplares de Araucaria bidwilli que consegui avistar em Curitiba, gostaria de saber se os que você viu estão na minha lista. BTW, coletei alguns cones e experimentei os pinhões. E você?

      1. Oi, Battuh!
        Os exemplares de Bunya-Bunya que observei estão todos dentro da Copel Padre Agostinho, no Bigorrilho. Tem, pelo menos, umas sete árvores, sendo que umas quatro ou cinco são fêmeas (produzem pinhas). No entanto, observei algumas pinhas caídas das árvores e não encontrei sementes viáveis. Creio que não haja exemplares machos próximos, o que determina que não ocorra a polinização nas pinhas fêmeas. Mesmo assim, fica o registro.
        Sei que no Jardim Botânico de São Paulo existem alguns exemplares de Bunya-Bunya que são muito antigos e são enormes, sei disso porque as vi de perto. Boa sorte aí nos seus registros, desculpe a demora da resposta. Abraços!

        Web Team Translate:-

        Hi , Battuh !
        The Bunya Bunya – copies I observed are all within Copel Father Augustine in Bigorrilho . Has at least about seven trees , and is four or five females ( produce cones ) . However , I observed some fallen pine cones from the trees and found viable seeds . I think there is no next male specimen , which determines that pollination does not occur in the female cones . Even so , the record is .
        I know that in the Botanical Garden of São Paulo there are some Bunya Bunya – copies that are very old and are huge , I know because I saw up close. Good luck with that in their records , sorry for the slow response . Hugs You!

        1. Interessante, Robson. Eu já tinha visto essas da Copel, mas eu só tinha contabilizado quatro árvores. Um detalhe a ser notado é que, ao contrário das nossas araucárias, nas australianas não existe diferenciação de árvore “macho” e “fêmea”. Ou seja, todas as árvores irão produzir pinhas e mingotes ao mesmo tempo. O que acontece é que elas primeiro produzem só pinhas, e alguns anos mais tarde produzem também os cones masculinos na mesma árvore. Mas no caso da Copel, onde já existem árvores velhas, o que acontece é que o pessoal da Copel mesmo recolhe as pinhas, então sobra muito pouco pinhão pra contar a história
          No Jardim Botânico de Curitiba e no Bosque do Alemão também existem exemplares, mas elas ainda são árvores muito novas para produzirem sementes viáveis.

          Web Team Translate via Google:-

          Interestingly, Robson . I had seen these Copel , but I had only recorded four trees . One detail to note is that , contrary to our pines , there is no tree in Australian differentiation ” male” and ” female.” That is, all the trees will produce pine cones and mingotes the same time.
          What happens is that they first only produce cones , and a few years later also produce the male cones on the same tree . But in the case of Copel , which is already old trees , what happens is that the staff of Copel they collect pinecones , then there is very little pinion to tell
          In Curitiba Botanical Garden and the German Grove there are also examples , but they are still very young trees to produce viable seeds .

  32. We have a giant one in our front yard and there is another down the block, also very large. I live in Los Angeles but in the north side of a hill where it is very shady. The first summer the tree produced cones we freaked out because they were so weird looking and weighed over 10lbs. Thanks for all the info. It’s quite interesting to tell to visitors. I wish I had one of those signs as my tree is close to where people park their cars!

  33. I have recently found a large Bunya Cone and would like to know when is it a good time to open the cone and extract the nuts for eating or planting.

  34. My neighbor has one growing in the heart of San Francisco. It’s 3 stories tall! Monterey Blvd, next to the (old monkey) Sunnyside conservatory. The neighborhood has a lot of old unique fruit trees. My parents have a loquat tree that’s also 3 stories tall.

    1. Hi Judy,
      Any chance that I could convince you to collect some seeds and pass them on to some friends of mine in the US (St Louis, specifically – cold winters but humid hot summers – very similar to their native range). if so, I’ll send on their contact details.

      Cheers!

  35. I’ve recently become fascinated with bunya trees after my father introduced me to their delicious unique flavour last year. In fact, I have a plate of boiled nuts in front of me right now :-D

    I live in SE Queensland not far from prime bunya territory and there are quite a few single trees in the area. I plan to spread their seed far and wide (and did so on a visit to Mackay / Eungella, where my father lives). These amazing trees need to be preserved and spread.

    My question is in regard to freezing the seeds. Will freezing them harm their potential to germinate? I can’t seem to find much info on that, and I’m certainly not a horticulturalist – or even much of a gardener. Any advice on this would be appreciated!

    1. Would you mind sending some seeds to me as well? I could pay postage if that helps. I want to plant some and share them with others here in Oregon and surrounding area. I don’t think they freeze well before planting. I understand they need to be planted/germinated as fresh as possible after harvest as they spoil if left too long.
      My email is silverandclay@yahoo.com
      Thank you.

  36. We direct seeded 100 on an east facing slope in Sth Gippsland at about 200m altitude, in good soil and rainfall over 1000mm annum. After over 8 months not one is showing above ground. So either the seed wasn’t viable or we’ve done something wrong. I found some sites suggesting that they should be planted with the seed jacket still on. So this is how we planted them. A guy I know had very high germination in pots after removing the jacket. Maybe that’s the way to do it.

    Be very interested to hear how anyone has achieved successful direct seeding.

    1. I may be wrong, but I’ve read (Wikipedia) that the bunya seedlings, after rooted, take from 10 months up to 3 years to emerge from the ground. So my guess is that you’ll have to be patient…

  37. I collected a cone from the park in Singleton NSW on January 2015. I left it in a grey polythene shopping bag placed inside my hall window. I inspected the bag today, 7 March 2015. The cone has broken up completely and about 80% of the nuts have produced a tap root of between 1 and 3 cm in length. I will now try planting these out.

  38. Hi everyone.
    So glad to see so many other interested people and people that actually have and use this tree. I also would like to try to grow this tree, but I live on Aruba (Dutch Caribbean) the Island Geoff mentioned as arid while in the tropics. I want to try to use the seeds in 3 different spots on this tiny Island and I hope someone is willing to send me some seeds.
    Maria Louwe
    Pavilla 13a
    Aruba
    Indeed, no postal- or zipcode, for town or state just repeat Pavilla or Aruba. It is a tiny Island indeed…

    Thank you!

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  40. I would like to try and grow some of these trees from seed. If anyone has any seeds they are willing to give away or sell…I would be very grateful. I will of course cover postage/shipping costs.

    Thanks,
    Clint
    Texas, USA

  41. My bunya has finally offered cones, about 20 in its 13th year. I was so disappointed as there were no seeds in the cones. Is this normal in the first crop? Many thanks Jenny

    1. dear jenny,
      congratulations on your very early cones,my tree took 20 odd years to produce. however the tree has to
      produce male stamen before fertilisation can occur.
      patience and persistance is required.
      regards,
      bob

  42. I work on a property with 6 large (? 4 storey’s) and 2 smaller…..I collect the needles from under, in the surrounding gardens, and am hoping someone may offer suggestions on how to use/dispose of them. I am able to fill 6 wheelie bins a week, as they do not go through the mulcher. There is an enormous amount of info on the nuts….can anyone suggest a way of breaking them down….quickly??!!

  43. Thanks for a great article! :)

    It’s for sure not easy to get hold of bunya seeds for international buyers. If anyone knows a way, then please post a comment here, thanks! :)

    Thomas

    1. Hi Thomas,

      There are a number of very large Bunya trees here in San Diego, California, United States, and I have a couple of fresh seed pods. I found this article trying to learn how to either propagate these trees as I have fresh seed pods or to learn how to prep the seeds for consumption (recipes too). I’d be happy to help you get some seeds in your hands! Feel free to write to me at (remove the spaces)
      Aly ssawo lven @ cox . net

      1. I just visited the grove of Bunyas at the south end of Balboa Park in San Diego, and one of the large trees seems to be dead. In addition, to the five or six full sized trees, about 100 years old and 100ft or so, there are also two junior trees, probably fifteen to twenty years old at the most, one of which appears to be dead as well. These trees were probably planted either by Kate Sessions or by Chauncey Jarabek, her successor as San Diego City Arborist. In contrast to to the grove of four or five similarly aged and sized Bunyas at 6th and Ivy, which appear to be quite well watered and fully leaved out, this grove about a mile away and on a sun-exposed promontory overlooking the city, do not appear to be well tended or looked after. A very large and fenced in Morton Bay Fig just across the road (in the park) from them has also died after what may have been a botched trimming. This seems a great shame. There is also a full-grown Bunya at the southern tip of the old Naval Hospital property (which is also a part of Balboa Park), visible from the northbound lanes of I-5, which looks similarly exposed and water-starved. Can nothing be done to better tend these trees? I was told by one of the staff at the Walter Anderson Nursery on Pacific Highway, that there are a number of Bunyas on the Marine Corps Base, and on the Liberty Station property (the old Naval Training Center), but it is the state of the trees in the South-East corner of Balboa Park that concerns me. This is a full-grown adult grove, a rare and valuable civic resource, and they seem to be dead, dying, and visibly unhealthy. What can be done?

  44. Hi there, I’m reading conflicting reports about the bunya being monoecious/diecious. I’m hoping to get to the bottom of just whether or not you need to plant more than one bunya in order to get nuts? Thank you.

    1. I’m wondering the same thing…here is an article: http://www.conifers.org/ar/Araucaria_bidwillii.php from a conifer group…and if anyone should know if the Araucaria bidwillii is monoecious or dioecious…it would be these people…and they say it is monoecious (both male and female cones are on the same tree)…but I have a retired botany professor friend…that is familiar with the A. bidwillii, and he says the tree is dioecious…his assertion is based on the fact that in his home town, (Louisiana, USA), there is a single tree, 40+ years old and it has never produced a single cone. That fact alone tells me the tree must be dioecious (one tree only produces male pollen cones, while another tree only produces female seed cones). To add more confusion, I have a friend north of Houston, Texas, USA…and he has 5 trees, 20+ years old, planted in a hedge row formation, and none of the 5 have ever produced a cone. I would think that statistically, there should be some combination of male and female trees in the group of 5 if they were dioecious.

      The mystery continues.

    2. duston,
      araucarias are regarded as monoecious…..however
      they are mostly grown in groups,as in parks gardens,
      and in their natural environment so cross fertilisation
      is an advantage to continuity. if you’ve got the space and the chance, plant as many as you can, otherwise
      just go for it, but it’s a very slow pastime.

  45. Hi here in jalisco, mexico 20°42’03″N 103°58’33″W, we have a bunya tree located in the church and probably is more than 100 years old. People in the village call it el arbol santo ( the saint tree) because they believe that drinking its branches as tea, will cure some deceases. However, i never seen the tree grow cones. I wonder why would be the reason this bunya pine is not producing fruit. Would be because its not original from the area?

  46. I planted some nuts in specially designed pots about six months ago. Most of these had already germinated in the cone, which was falling apart. They had developed a curved shoot with an arrowhead shaped end. I wasn’t sure which way up to plant them but opted for the arrow tip down. Most have now produced a shoot but it is small and brown and would be hard to see in the ground. It only becomes green when about 5 – 6 cm in height from the soil surface.. There are no cottelydons. The shoot grows directly from the top of the arrow head shaped tuber which then extends a taproot downwards. The nut and the shoot to the tuber rots away. I started to empty the pots thinking nothing was happening and was surprised to see that most of the nuts were actually growing albeit slowly.

  47. I believe these nuts came from a single tree, probably upwards of 80 years old, growing in the cool temperate region of southern N.S.W. western slopes which can experience frosts to -10 C.

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