The mystery surrounding Australia’s ancient wild and endangered macadamia trees – Michmutters

The mystery surrounding Australia’s ancient wild and endangered macadamia trees

Ian McConachie is eager to find the answer to an ancient mystery — just how many hundreds of years do Australia’s wild macadamias live?

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this article contains images and names of people who have died.

After decades of visiting a precious remnant of the threatened species’ habitat in Queensland’s Amamoor State Forest, the founder of the Macadamia Conservation Trust has already discovered that looks can be deceiving.

“So many people are familiar with the macadamia but to see it in the rainforests is just quite mind-boggling,” Mr McConachie AM said.

“It’s nothing like you would expect, they hide amongst all the other trees.”

Living time capsules

An older man in a cardigan looks down at the serrated leaves of a wild macadamia tree that doesn't even reach his chest.
Ian McConachie AM says this macadamia tree hasn’t grown in over 40 years.(Rural ABC: Jennifer Nichols)

A self-described “macadamia dinosaur”, retired food scientist, field researcher, grower and passionate historian, Mr McConachie singled out a spindly chest-high tree, as a perfect example of how even a small plant could potentially be hundreds of years old.

“It’s only got about 18 leaves. I first saw it 1979 and between 1979 and now, it has not grown at all. It’s sitting in the rainforest in dense shade, just waiting until it receives light,” he said.

The oldest European-planted macadamia tree has been growing in Brisbane’s Botanic gardens since 1858 and still bears a healthy crop of nuts.

Craig Hardner dwarfed by the oldest known cultivated macadamia tree.
Craig Hardner says this is the oldest-known European-cultivated macadamia tree in the world.(Supplied: UQ)

“One of the initiatives we’re taking is we’re starting to do radiocarbon dating of trees in the rainforest so we can see just what their longevity is and how old they might be,” Mr McConachie said.


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