Bush nut under threat in the wild

THE Bundjalung called them ‘gyndl’ and in the Queensland city of Gympie they were the ‘bottle nut’.

In Lismore they were originally called the ‘bush nut’, although calling them that during the 1930s could get you thrown out of the local growers’ society.

These days, Australia’s best-known bush food is called the macadamia nut and the Northern Rivers variety – Macadamia tetraphylla, meaning four leaves – is listed as vulnerable.

“In the 1930s they thought calling them bush nuts was a derogatory term,” Ian McConachie, macadamia historian and member of the Macadamia Conservation Trust, said.

“You would get one warning and then they would throw you out.”

A lot has changed since then, including the number of wild bush nuts growing on the Northern Rivers.

Land clearing, logging, weeds, fire and livestock were just some of the threats to local populations, Mr McConachie said.

Macadamia tetraphylla, characterised by a thick, rough, pebbly shell and four distinct leaves at every node, grows well in the rainforests of the Northern Rivers.

“They don’t have the same edible value as commercial varieties. They are harder to crack and have fewer kernels,” Mr McConachie said.

The conservation trust is currently working to establish a database of all known wild populations of the tree which may be growing in rainforest remnants on private or public land.

Mr McConachie said there were likely to be many more populations of the variety which the trust did not know about and preserving them was important.

The database will assist the trust to further develop its conservation program and it is asking the Ballina and Byron councils to participate.

The trust has asked the councils to spend $20,000 to employ a project officer to work on conservation of the trees.

The trust will then reimburse the councils for the costs.

Macadamia tetraphylla is protected by Federal and State laws, making it illegal to destroy the tree.

The Australian Macadamia Society has also funded arecovery management plan to protect wild macadamias.

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