An Old Macadamia Tree


Ian McConachie 1

Reprint from CMS Yearbook 1981


I am an old native Macadamia tree and you may be interested in my tale. My address is No. 4 Mary’s Creek Road, about 10-km. southwest of Gympie in Southern Queensland, Australia. My home is in the foothills of the local ranges, and on the bank of Eel Creek, which flows into the Mary River.

My claim to fame is my age of 300 years, give or take a hundred years or so. I am not certain about my parentage because I became a foundling before I knew my mother when I was washed away from her protective canopy during a flood and lodged in the deep alluvial soil of the creek bank many miles away. For all these years I’ve been a spectator and observer in the life of this part of Australia in all its changes.

Eel Creek is clean and shallow with its rock-lined bed passing through patches of rich volcanic soil and its attendant rain forest. Over the years my companions have been silky oak, hoop and bunya pine, river oak and black bean, with an occasional smaller Macadamia tree.

For most of my life I struggled to compete, and only fortune gave me a little space to grow above my neighbors and produce crops of nuts. Each year the aborigines from the Kabi Kabi tribe would visit me, call me gyndyl (kindal) and collect my nuts. Some they carried away in their dilly bags, but others they would place in a depression on a rock, place a wedge shaped stone over the top, and strike this with a heavy round rock. They enjoyed my nuts, and were excited when I had a good crop.

About 1870 an event occurred, which was the start of a change in my life. Some white men with picks and sieved trays came up the creek and played in its bed. They glanced at me, but were not interested.

Then ten years later a white man came regularly. His name was Mr. Blackburn and he used to collect my nuts. In 1900 he built a house on the low ridge nearer the road, and used rough cut timber from the scrub around me. The house had a verandah and two rooms with the kitchen separate and joined by a path, so that a fire would not destroy the whole home. Sadly, white ants caused the house to rot and collapse in 1979.

In 1910 or 1911, a Mr. and Mrs. Bonney came and in 1916 allowed a sawmill called COLUMBIA MILL to be set up. The larger trees were all cut down and this gave me more space to grow. By 1925 the property was partly cleared, and this allowed frosts to bother me. Now only the sawmill boiler remains of that era.

Mr. Bonney and his son Les collected my nuts and boasted of my size and crop. In the 1930's some men came to compare me with some native Macadamia trees at Mooloo in the next valley. They said some of the trees were cut for timber and found to be between 300 and 400 years old. My age will remain a secret for many years yet.

During the 1970's Mr. Les Bonney used to collect my nuts, and said that 300 lbs. was an average crop. He took my nuts together with those from about ten other smaller trees to a processor. The processor insulted me by inferring that I was inferior because I’m a seedling tree. But I had the last laugh, as a Macadamia grower near Nambour sold my nuts with his crop and the processor never complained.

In 1979 my height was about 40 feet. I have six trunks with a girth at the base of 7 ft. Please forgive me for giving my dimensions in traditional imperial measurements as I am too set in my ways to change to metric at my stage in life. My nuts are small and yield 32% kernels. One day in 1979, a Dr. Carter from Brisbane inspected me and said he had bought the property. Bulldozers arrived, then pumps and irrigation lines, and now in 1981, the hills above me are covered with my kind-over 3,000 grafted Macadamias. I’m now part of COLUMBIA PLANTATION.

But age is wearying me. The creek bank is eroding, and many of my roots exposed. My leaves are chlorotic and falling. Dr. Carter is trying to save me and I’ve had a large dose of fertilizer. I’ve become a darker shade of green and am even growing again.

Now I am proud to hear people describe my kind as the finest nut in the world, and to know that we’ve been recognized and established in many parts of this world. And even prouder to be a part of Australia’s heritage, and hope to be of service and value to my native country and other parts of the world.

There are only a few trees left like me. Take my fruit and enjoy me, and tell others of my delicacy of flavor and texture. Plant a tree like me, for it will provide you and your children with food, shade, pleasure and beauty.

1,Australian member, CMS; Managing Director of Macadamia Consultants Pty. Limited, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.