Bunya Nuts

The bunya tree (Araucaria bidwillii) is the last surviving species in the world of the section bunya of the genus araucaria. Bunya nuts were a traditional food of the Australian aboriginal people in a limited area of rainforest, predominantly in South-East Queensland and especially in part of the Great Dividing Range now known as the Bunya Mountains National Park. This reserve is considered to be a very sacred place by the aborigines. The nuts mature in summer and aborigines travelled long distances to feast on the nuts, suspending any hostilities and engaging in major trading, bartering and marriage arrangements and in some years, with an exceptional harvest, the festivities ran for several months.

Bunya trees are majestic reaching a height of 30-45m. The large green Bunya cones (football size) are hidden in the tree canopy. Mature trees at 12-15 years produce cones with crops being exceptionally good every 2-3 years. The mature cone weighs 5-10 kg and contains 30-100 nuts. The nuts were eaten raw or roasted and resemble chestnuts, and are equally tasty

Their native habitat was mostly cleared by the European settlers to establish agriculture and to use the timber which is valuable. There is renewed interest in Bunya nuts among the Australian aboriginal and settler population. In 2002 a Bunya Symposium was held at Griffith University. The continued population increase in South-East Queensland will further endanger the Bunya tree, possibly restricting its occurrence to the National Park.

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