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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Araucaria bidwillii - Bunya Bunya

The Bunya-Bunya tree is truly one of my favorites and one of the more exotic confers planted in our area. Native to limited areas of Queensland along the coast in Australia. They are now planted in most Mediterranean climates. There are several around town worth seeing. This is the one on Chestnut that is listed as a heritage tree. They have an exotic look to them. Somewhat prehistoric maybe. One of the prize trees in England during the Victorian era.

The trees are large, 40-70 feet tall around here, maybe taller elsewhere, evergreen, fairly pyramidal when young but loosing most of the lower branches with age and becoming somewhat rounded with long upward spreading branches with the majority of the foliage out on the tips. Here is the one at the Mission.

This is one from SLO but you can see the typical spreading of the branches and the foliage on the tips of the branches.

Leaves are very sharp, stiff, 1-2" long, arranged in a whorled fashion but spreading and twisting at the base to appear two-ranked, dark green upper surface, lighter green on the lower. Did I say sharp? Ouch. You may encounter some leaves that are more awl-shaped but they will only be right below the maturing cones.

The trunks are mostly bare with age and are very attractive. Not sure how to describe them, they are gray to brown with small bumps.

Female cones are huge (10" x 8") and very heavy, 10-15 pounds. The seeds are edible. You are not likely to find a cone on the ground as they, like true firs and true cedars, fall apart in the tree. You will find large scales which are 2-3" across. I have one from the trees in Scotts Valley by the Pasatiempo Country Club that blew down during a large storm. One of my students brought it to me. I forgot to wire it up in hopes of keeping it from falling apart but here it is.

Male cones are smaller, cylindrical and fall once the pollen is released. Looks like the foliage of another Araucaria, A. heterophylla.

Misidentification? A. auracana, the Monkey Puzzle Tree. Similar, but the leaves are all scale like, maybe 3/4" to 1" long, never long like Bunya-Bunya. Not as common in Santa Cruz (one on 3rd in SC).

Locations: There are several beauties around, The heritage tree on Chestnut (above),

SC Mission by the famous Wine palm

Pasatiempo exit in Scotts Valley.

Also a large old one at the Sesnon house at Cabrillo.

1 comment:

  1. You say that the cones fall apart on the tree - but here in NZ and Aus they are an annual safety hazard and quite a few severe injuries are caused by full cones dropping. Each year I collect full fallen cones to access the edible 'nuts'. I assure you they don't just fall apart up in the branches, and a suggestion to the public to stay clear during fruiting season would be wise.