Since 2006, Healthy Land and Water has been working with Hort Innovation, the Macadamia Conservation Trust, Australian Macadamia Society, researchers, the macadamia industry, local councils, community groups and landholders to conserve wild macadamias and their habitats.
Key initiatives include:
- Habitat restoration;
- Surveys and long-term monitoring;
- Habitat mapping;
- Propagation workshop;
- Supporting genetic research; and
- Community education and awareness.
Macadamia history – conservation and industry
Long before European settlement, Aboriginal tribes used macadamias as a food source, harvesting nuts from the rainforests of southern Queensland and northern NSW for consumption and for trading up and down the east coast of Australia. Nutshells have been found in aboriginal middens near Brisbane. Some Aboriginal names for the nuts are Kindal Kindal, Baupal, Gyndl, Jindilli and Boombera.
The first botanical specimen was collected by Ludwig Leichardt in 1843 from Maleny. The first known domesticated macadamia is thought to be a tree planted by Walter Hill in the Brisbane City Botanical Gardens in 1858; this tree survives today. From 1860, settlers discovered the fine eating qualities of both Queensland Nut and Rough-shelled Bush Nut, and these were widely planted in farm yards and backyards as single trees grown from seeds of local wild stock.
Early concern for the plight of macadamias was led by Walter Hill in the late 1800s and resulted in thousands of backyard plantings, however, coordinated conservation of macadamia did not effectively get underway until 1988 through the initiative of the Australian Macadamia Society (AMS). Since then, the AMS has instigated the formation of the Macadamia Conservation Trust and the development of a Recovery Plan for all four species. The Trust is still actively supporting research, planning and on-ground actions to conserve wild trees and populations. Healthy Land and Water has partnered with the Trust to support macadamia conservation since 2006.
At around the same time as Walter Hill was initiating conservation, a handful of macadamia trees were exported from Australia to Hawaii where, in the absence of natural diseases and pests, their commercial potential was developed considerably further. From about 1960, macadamia cultivars imported from Hawaii started replacing trees sourced from wild populations in orchards and backyards in Australia. Australia is now estimated to produce 30% of global production of macadamia. The cultivated trees found in commercial orchards are selected for valuable features such as abundant flowers, large, flavoursome nuts, thinner shells and pest resistance, though have significantly less genetic diversity than wild trees. Genetic diversity provides opportunity to respond to changing conditions, new diseases, human needs and climatic change.
How can you help conserve wild macadamia trees?
- Learn about wild macadamias and share your knowledge with family, friends and colleagues
- Take part in The Wild Macadamia Hunt
- Protect wild macadamias from weeds, fire and livestock
- Eat only Australian grown macadamias
- Support the Macadamia Conservation Trust
For further information:
- Macadamia Conservation Trust – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Costello, G., Gregory, M. and Donatiu, P. (2009). Southern Macadamia Species Recovery Plan. Report to Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra by Horticulture Australia Limited, Sydney. Available here.
- Hardner, C., Nock, C., Batley, J., Termizi, A.A.A., Peace, C., Hayashi, S., Montenegro, J.D. and Edwards, D. (2016). Backyard macadamias in Brisbane as a reservoir of genetic diversity for breeding. Available here.
- Hort Innovation (2017). Macadamia, Strategic Investment Plan, Hort Innovation. Available here.
- McConachie, I. (2012). The Macadamia Story. Australian Macadamia Society, Lismore, NSW. Available here.