Gympie region's favourite, iconic bush tucker is falling
THE iconic bunya pine has a reputation for erratic cone and seed production.
This year there have been many reports of fallen cones predominately coming from younger age trees.
The bunya cone is a large structure weighing in at round least 5kg and measuring 300mm plus high and not much below that in cross section.
The 55x30mm seeds are arranged in a spiral fashion (fibonacci) around the cone with each individual seed in its covering fitting neatly into each other.
If a cone has been found on the ground after rain there is a chance that it has started to rot and the seeds to germinate.
In that event it is advisable to remove the seeds from the cone before deciding to eat, after boiling or roasting, or plant. Seeds are removed easily from the cover, leaving the hard outer husk, with around eighty seeds being a good result per cone.
Seeds are planted point down in a polystyrene box into about 20cm of potting soil mix. The soil depth allows the root room to develop.
Some seeds germinate within a few days while other can take up to a couple of months. The first sign of a germinating seed is when the outer husk cracks. This indicates that a root has grown from the seed and it will gradually develop into a 'carrot'.
At this stage, when the 'carrot' is between little finger and thumb thick and 50mm long with small hair roots below the 'carrot', the seed can be transplanted into 200mm deep poly planter bags. Some seeds will have sent up leaves which appear as a reddish brown shoot from the top of the 'carrot'.
The presence of a shoot is not necessary for the seed to be transplanted as it will develop later.
Growth is relatively slow and seed to planting out at about 300mm high can take twelve months plus.
Bunya nut seeds are much sought after by birds and animals as an excellent food source. On the tree Sulphur-crested Cockatoos have noisy feasts. Bush rats can do a lot of damage when seeds are planted, and it is strongly suggested that a small mesh wire cover that excludes rats be used
After transplanting regular watering to keep the soil moist helps growth, and a few doses of fertiliser of choice speed up plant growth.
Bunyas do best in well drained red soils and can grow to 45m and a diameter of 150cm.
Cones, trunk and leaves have extensive strong prickles. They are magnificent trees but don't plant too close to structures, and regard any plantings for at least great grand children.
Gympie to the Bunya Mountains is their home, mostly west of the Mary, with some 150 years old trees visible in the western hills though many were cut during early settlement.