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A Floridata Plant Profile #133 Araucaria bidwillii
Common Names: bunya-bunya tree, false monkey puzzle tree
Family: Araucariaceae (araucaria Family)
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tree  Grows Well Indoors. Has evergreen foliage Has Unusual or Interesting Foliage

bunya-bunya tree
Up until the late 90's when they were removed, these bunya-bunya trees graced the entrance to Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida (I wish they'd plant new ones).
The bunya-bunya tree is a distinctive evergreen conifer with evenly spaced, horizontal branches arranged in regular tiers and whorled around a trunk that continues to the very tip of the tree. Young trees are cone-shaped and beautifully symmetrical. Trees larger than 20-50 ft (6.1-15.2 m) lose the lower branches and develop distinctive dome-shaped crowns. In the wild they can get up to 120 ft (36.6 m) tall. Bunya-bunya has two kinds of leaves. The glossy juvenile leaves are narrow, 1-2 in (2.5-5.1 cm) long, stiff and sharp-pointed. They are spreading and arranged in two rows on the branchlets. The woody mature leaves are oval and only 0.5 in (1.3 cm) long. They are twisted, spirally arranged and overlapping on the branchlets. Mature female bunya-bunyas (the species is dioecious) produce huge, spiny, pineapple-shaped cones up to 9 in (23 cm) long and 8 in (20 cm) in diameter that can weigh up to 18 pounds (8.2 kg).

bunya-bunya foliage
The stiff sharp juvanile leaves of bunya-bunya can injure bare skin.
Bunya-bunya is native to rainforest communities near the coast in SE Queensland, Australia.

Light: Full sun to partial shade; house plants should be provided bright light, but not direct sun.
Moisture: Bunya-bunya requires regular watering, especially container plants.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 -11. Can be grown in protected sites in zone 8B.
Propagation: From seeds. Also propagated from tip cuttings, but this is said to be difficult.

Thinking that the bunya-bunya liked dry well drained soils, I planted this bunya-bunay on a dry sandy slope of The Hill about 12 years ago. It was about 1 ft (0.3 m) when planted and was continually killed back by frosts, fungus and deer deprtivations. For the past two years it has been regularly watered, sprayed, fed and mulch and is now over 6 ft (15.2 m) tall. This is another of my favorite weird trees, I'm going to work hard to keep this one growing.
Like other members of the genus, the distinctive silhouette of bunya-bunya makes it an elegant specimen for large landscapes, parks and avenues. They sometimes are used as wind breaks, and large specimens make fine evergreen shade trees.

Bunya-bunya makes an excellent houseplant; it is very tolerant of low light conditions and, in a container, will stay small for years.

The seeds are edible and considered a delicacy by Australian Aborigines. During the fruiting season, the Aborigines would set aside their tribal differences temporarily, and harvest bunya-bunya seeds without disputes. Bunya-bunya is a valuable timber tree in Australia.

Norfolk Island palm (Araucaria heterophylla) and monkey puzzle tree (A. araucana) are close relatives and quite similar in appearance. Of the 18 species in this ancient genus, 13 are confined in the wild to New Caledonia between Australia and Fiji in the South Pacific.

The leaves are spiny and falling cones could be lethal.

Steve Christman 1/25/00; updated 10/22/04

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