Tree Profiles Bunya Bunya

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The Bunya Bunya Tree (Araucaria bidwillii) is a large tropical evergreen also known as the False Monkey Puzzle Tree and the Bunya Pine, or simply the Bunya. The species is native to coastal rain forest regions of Queensland, Australia, where they grow in volcanic soil. In the wild they can reach 36 meters (120 feet) in height. They are known for having evenly spaced, horizontal branches arranged in whorls around the trunk. Younger trees are cone-shaped and symmetrical. As the trees age, the lower branches fall off and the top becomes increasingly dome-shaped. Leaves of young trees are glossy, pointed and narrow - becoming more woody with age, but they remain sharp. Female Bunya Bunyas produce big, pineapple-shaped cones up to 23 centimeters (9 inches) long that may weigh up to 8.2 kilograms (19 pounds). The seeds are edible once retrieved from the prickly cones and have long been eaten by the Aborigines as a delicacy. These trees are also of commercial importance in the timber industry in Australia. They have soft wood popular for flooring and cabinets.

Bunya Bunya Trees can be kept in containers as houseplants and will remain small for years. They should be given bright light, but not direct sun, and watered regularly. If growing a Bunya Bunya outside, full sun to partial shade will work. They are hardy in USDA zones 8 through 11. In the cooler zones they may need to be grown in protected areas, and they are best suited for humid warm areas. Once they are established they are much more hardy. In landscaping they provide a nice silhouette or windbreak. They are fairly easy to propagate via seeds. They can also be propagated using cuttings, but it is more difficult. Bunya Bunya are known to be extremely slow to germinate, only developing roots after a year, but they may live for up to 500 years. When handling them it is important to be careful of their sharp leaves, as well as spines on their fruits. 

The Monkey Puzzle Tree (Araucaria araucana) and Norfolk Island Palm (Araucaria heterophylla) are closely related to the Bunya Bunya and are very similar-looking. The Bunya Bunya is the last surviving species of bunya tree, which were once widespread trees during the Mesozoic era. Bunya fossils have been found in Europe and South America, making this tree a remnant of prehistoric times. The scientific name of the tree comes from botanist John Carne Bidwell, who sent the first specimen to Europe from Australia in 1843.

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