The Wild Macadamia Hunt

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Summary

We need your help to find wild macadamia trees around Brisbane!

The delicious macadamia nut is native to Australia. Unfortunately, although cultivated macadamia trees are abundant in Australia, their wild relatives are under threat. With the support of Brisbane City Council, Healthy Land and Water is launching a project aimed at finding wild macadamia trees so these important species can be conserved for the future.

Wild macadamia trees naturally occur in the rainforests of South East Queensland, northern New South Wales and a tiny area of Central Queensland, but may also be found in suburban backyards, acreage blocks, pastoral properties, old orchards and local parks. And we need your help to find them.

How you can help

Find a wild macadamia tree and register details of the tree online through the data portal we have established with Atlas of Living Australia. If your tree is one we are looking for (around 100 years old), we will ask you to collect a leaf sample and send it to us! The samples will be compiled and the leaves will be genetically analysed later. The results will help determine the best way to conserve wild macadamia trees. 

There are potentially thousands of wild macadamia descendants hidden away on private properties or in bushland, so we need your help – and that of your neighbours and friends – to find them!

If you know of an old macadamia tree or two (or several!), that could be around 100 years old, we would love to hear from you!

  1. Tell us about your tree

Register your tree(s) via The Wild Macadamia Hunt data portal.

Click Get Started then Add a record. Log in if you have an account with ALA or sign up.

Don’t forget to upload your photos of the tree, such as its flowers, leaves, and nuts

Please contact us by phone on 07 3816 9720 if you require any assistance.

  1. Identify your tree

Use our Macadamia identification fact sheets to identify your tree.

A Quick Guide To Macadamia Identification

Queensland Nut Tree (M. integrifolia)

Rough-shelled Bush Nut (M. tetraphylla)

Gympie Nut (M. ternifolia)

Bulberin Nut (M. jansenii)

  1. Share your story

We would love to hear the story behind your old macadamia tree. Join the conversation via The Wild Macadamia Hunters Facebook group to share your stories and learn more about macadamias.

Leaf Collection

Once you’ve registered via The Wild Macadamia Hunt data portal we’ve reviewed your tree’s details and it is one we would like to investigate further, we will send you a leaf collection kit.

The kit contains instructions on how to collect and supply leaves using the provided storage materials and prepaid envelope. Don’t forget to get permission first if you want to collect leaves from someone else’s macadamia tree. And do not collect from protected areas such as National Parks and Forest Reserves unless you have a permit from the Queensland Government.

Macadamia leaves must be carefully collected and stored if they are to be used for future genetic analysis. Genetic analysis will help discover the ancestry or origins of the tree which can be used for future conservation efforts.

For detailed instructions on how to collect macadamia leaves for genetic analysis please download the Leaf Collection Instructions.

*Please do not collect any macadamia leaves before we send you the leaf collection kit as their genetic material deteriorates quickly and collection from protected species is regulated.

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:

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 – wild@macadamias.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.

What is a wild macadamia?

A wild macadamia is one of the following four types (species), either in pure form or a cross (hybrid) between two species:

Wild trees are not cultivars or varieties, such as you might find in the fruit tree section of your local nursery.

It can be difficult to tell a cultivar from a wild tree by its looks, so we’re using age as the key distinguisher.

Macadamia trees that are around 100 years old are likely to be wild trees.

These old trees may be found growing naturally in rainforest scrubs or areas that once were rainforest, or could also be trees planted many years ago – by indigenous people or early settlers – in your backyard, acreage block, pastoral property, old orchard or local park.

Why are wild Macadamias under threat?

Habitat destruction and fragmentation, weeds and fire have caused the loss of many wild populations of macadamia, with nearly 80% of all macadamia habitat lost since European settlement. These threats are ongoing and are likely to being exacerbated by climate change. Remnant wild macadamia trees and populations also struggle with:

  • poor recruitment due to lack of pollination and nut predation,
  • competition and smothering by weeds such as cats claw creeper (Dolichandra unguis-cati), and
  • weakened genetics due to cross-pollination with cultivated macadamias

The impact of these threats has led to the protection of wild macadamia trees under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992 and Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. It is an offence to damage or interfere with wild macadamias unless permitted by the respective Acts. Compliance with the Queensland Code of Practice for the Harvest and Use of Protected Plants is also required before collecting any seeds, fruits, flowers or other propagating material; for more information on this, please click here.

Why are you only looking for old macadamia trees?

There is currently a mix of wild and cultivated macadamia trees scattered across South East Queensland, northern New South Wales and elsewhere in Australia.

The early 1900s was a growth time for the Australian macadamia industry, resulting in distribution of large numbers of macadamia seedlings. Though these seedlings had wild parents, the seeds (nuts) were collected from only a few trees, limiting their genetic diversity. Compounding this, from around 1960, imported trees (both cultivars and hybrids) from Hawaii started replacing Australian stock in local orchards. The imported trees have significantly less genetic diversity than wild trees or are mixed species.

So now, we are hunting for macadamia trees that are at least 100 years old. These trees are likely wild trees, either planted or naturally occurring; some may be the sole descendants of wild populations that no longer exist.

Which macadamia trees are you looking for?

We want to find macadamia trees that are at least 100 years old, and we’re interested in three species (or types) of macadamia:

  • Queensland Nut (Macadamia integrifolia)
  • Rough-shelled Bush Nut (Macadamia tetraphylla)
  • Gympie Nut (Macadamia ternifolia)

Our Macadamia Identification fact sheet will help you to work out which species you might have.

The Wild Macadamia Hunt is not looking for Bulberin Nut (Macadamia jansenii). This macadamia is endangered and only found in a small area of central Queensland. Visiting the area could lead to the species becoming more threatened than it already is.

Examples of all four species of macadamia can be seen at the following Botanic Gardens:

Why are young macadamia leaves preferred for genetic analysis?

Young leaf or shoots yield a higher quality and quantity of DNA than older leaves.

Young leaves are light green or reddish (depending on species) and softer than older leaves.

Whilst only a few young leaves are needed, these can be hard to find and may be difficult to reach. Here are  a couple of tips for finding young leaves:

  • Look for a flush of new leaves after good growing conditions, such as recent rainfall or exposure to sunlight, or before flowering – this may need patience.
  • Look for young leaves or shoots.
  • If the tree has no new growth, collect two or three small older leaves.

What happens once I have registered my tree/s?

If your tree/s is one we’d like to investigate, we will send you a leaf collection kit. The kit contains instructions on how to collect and supply leaves, storage materials and a prepaid envelope.

Project resources are limited, so priority will be given to Brisbane residents and collected leaves will be sent for storage and future genetic analysis. We hope to find funding to expand the Wild Macadamia Hunt and to undertake genetic analysis.

Why is genetic analysis important?

Recent research by Dr Craig Hardner (University of Queensland) and Dr Catherine Nock (Southern Cross University) on macadamia genetics can provide valuable information on the ancestry of trees.

The genetic composition of wild and cultivated trees varies. Through genetic analysis researchers can confirm species identification and determine whether a tree is a natural hybrid or a cultivar.

Genetic analysis may also help us to understand how closely related wild populations of macadamia are to each other, to discover unique genetic traits, and to find trees that are the progeny of macadamia populations that no longer exist. Understanding macadamia genetics will help inform conservation priorities and the commercial potential of wild macadamias.

For more information on macadamia genetic analysis refer to:

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 online here.

How can I 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

Join the hunt

Contacts

If you have any questions or suggestions about the project, please contact Healthy Land and Water:

 

Vanessa Durand

Vanessa.d@hlw.org.au

07 3816 9720

 

Liz Gould

Liz.g@hlw.org.au

0400 748 157

 

Join the conversation

Become a member of The Wild Macadamia Hunters Facebook group

Get in touch

Healthy Land and Water is dedicated to the care of our unique and beautiful land, waterways and biodiversity.

  • Address: Level 19, 160 Ann Street Brisbane QLD 4000
  • PO Box: 13204, George Street, Brisbane Qld 4003
  • Phone: (07) 3177 9100
  • Fax: (07) 3177 9190
  • Email: info@hlw.org.au

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