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.
Thanks to https://permaculturenews.org/2013/11/27/the-bunya-bunya-pine-araucaria-bidwillii/
Rain and heavy cloud preventing me from viewing the super moon last night.