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Don't sit under the bunya-bunya tree.

Don't sit under the bunya-bunya tree

If Isaac Newton had been struck on the head by a bunya-bunya cone instead of a mere apple, the theory of universal gravitation might have died at birth.

Weighing 10 pounds or more, the cones are borne high up in the tree, a shapely evergreen of moderately rapid growth to an eventual 80 feet. When ripe, usually in September or October, these enormous seed clusters fall with a crash, sometimes breaking small branches as they descend.

Bunya-bunya (Araucaria bidwillii) is less formal than its relative the Norfolk Island pine (A. heterophylla) and shapelier than the prickly monkey puzzle (A. araucana). Resembling flattened needles, its glossy, deep green leaves grow to 2 inches long. A well-grown bunya-bunya stands as a noble landscape ornament.

But it also has disadvantages that limit its use to large properties or rural areas. Consider its breadth and the depth of its shade: sweeping branches brush the ground and cast deep shade more than 20 feet out from the trunk.

The cones may also give you pause. It would be foolhardy to site a bunya-bunya over a path or driveway, or to place a table or bench underneath it.

In bunya-bunyas' defense, not all will bear cones because not all have both male and female flowers. Most trees are of one sex or the other, and the females require pollination to set cones. It takes years to determine what kind of tree you have.

In Australia, where bunya-bunya is a native, aborigines gather the seeds, which form a basic part of their diet. To non-aboriginal palates, the nuts are too rubbery and soapy to eat. You can, however, plant them in the ground or in pots.

Bunya-bunya will grow anywhere in California except the mountains and the Mojave Desert. In Arizona it withstands the climate of the low and intermediate deserts. Wherever grown, it appreciates deep soil and adequate water. You can order a plant through most nurseries. If you like its style but can't give it garden room, keep it in a container as a house or indoor-outdoor plant. Confinement will limit its size--and avoid cone problems.

Photo: Stately and formal, bunya-bunya tree comes from Australia

Photo: Topless, 10-pound green pineapple-- that's the tree's typical cone

Photo: Each cone holds up to 150 2-inch, tan seeds. Large object at left above seeds is cone's axis (central stem)
COPYRIGHT 1984 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Oct 1, 1984
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