Characteristics of Bunya Pine Tree (Araucaria bidwillii) in the Wild

Araucaria bidwillii
The Bunya Pine or False Monkey Puzzle Tree (Araucaria bidwillii) is a large evergreen coniferous tree. This tree grows naturally in south-east Queensland Australia and two separate small populations in World Heritage-listed Wet Tropical forests in northeast Queensland.

Many old Bunya Pine trees grow in New South Wales, and around the Perth area, Western Australia. One of the tallest and currently alive is in Bunya Mountains National Park, Queensland, which was reported by Robert Van Pelt in January 2003 as being 51.5 meters high.

BUNYA PINE HISTORY
Bunya Pine is the last species of the genus Araucaria that is still alive. The species varied and were widespread during the Mesozoic with some species having a cone morphology similar to that of Araucaria bidwillii, which appeared during the Jurassic period. Bunya Pine fossils have been found in South America and Europe. Its scientific name is set in honor of the botanist John Carne Bidwill, who discovered it in 1842 and sent the first specimen to Sir William Hooker in 1843.

 

Currently, Bunya Pine has a limited distribution in Australia due to global climate change, loss of rainforests, and poor seed dispersal. Its original habitat in the Bunya Mountains is now closely guarded and this species is considered protected.

 
Indigenous groups such as Wakawaka, Githabul, Kabi Kabi, Jarowair, Fried Fried, Butchulla, Quandamooka, Baruŋgam, Yiman, and Wulili continue to forge cultural and spiritual links to the Bunya Mountains to this day. Several strategies including the use of traditional ecological knowledge have been incorporated into current national park and reserve management practices with the Bunya Murri Ranger project currently operating in the mountains.

USES IN LOCAL TRADITION
Its large pine fruit is a very important food source for indigenous Australians. Every Aboriginal family has a cluster of bunya pine trees and these will be passed down from generation to generation. It is said that the bunya pine tree is the only legacy that is privately owned by Aboriginal people.

 

Characteristics of Bunya Pine Leaf

Araucaria bidwillii Leaf
Source: flickr.com/Ross Bayton

The first leaves form a rosette and are dark brown. The leaves turn green after the first stem branches appear. Unlike the mature leaves, the young leaves are relatively soft. As the leaves age, they become very tough and sharp.

 

Characteristics of Bunya Pine Fruit

Araucaria bidwillii Fruit
Source: flickr.com/César Garcia

The fruit is very large, 20-35 cm in diameter, and weighs about 18 kg. The bunya pine fruit is only consumed by large birds such as cockatoos. Ripe fruit on the tree will self-destruct and release 3-4 cm seeds.

 

Characteristics of Bunya Pine Tree

Araucaria bidwillii Tree
Source: flickr.com/John Tann

The bunya pine trees can grow as high as 40-45 meters in their original habitat but are shorter when planted elsewhere.

Historically, fresh pines have been found in recorded populations that are abundant and widespread in South East Queensland and Wide Bay-Burnett.

 
HOW TO CULTiVATE BUNYA PINE TREE

Pine bunya can be propagated by cuttings from young, healthy, straight branches. Cuttings from side, old, or crooked branches often fail to thrive.

The bunya pine can also be cultivated from seed, but the germination time is very long. They are said to have about 6-12 months to germinate and 1 year to grow roots.

The germination of the bunya pine is also unique and unusual, the seeds have cryptogeal seed germination where the seeds develop to form underground tubers where aerial shoots then emerge. The actual emergence of seeds was later found to occur over several years as a possible strategy for enabling seedlings to grow in optimal climatic conditions. This erratic germination has been one of the main problems in the silviculture of the species.

 

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