Australian Fair Food Forum

How to plant / propogate Bunya Pine seeds?

I have a bunya pine and am starting to plant seeds around the farm, but I can find very little information on how to do this . . other than to make sure it can get the tap root down (which I think is ok as I’m mostly planting where I wouldn’t need to move them)

To be honest there’s a gaping hole in the research. We really don’t know that much about them. Take the Wollemi (Wollemia nobilis) for instance. It’s been mass marketed to the public but by asexual propagation (cuttings) with extremely mixed results. Research bodies are only just now starting to do more thorough work with seedlings and asking more questions. Do other Araucariaceae have this tuber-producing habit? What is its true purpose? Do other species’ tubers hold potential value as food? There’s a whole undiscovered world underneath these trees. It’s interesting — fun — this kind of research and observing how large and powerful a Bunya Pine can get. They can be so unpredictable. One day you throw a Bunya nut in the compost and see nothing for six months then suddenly there’s a nine inch tap root poking out. Obviously it had stalled, waiting for optimum conditions but as to what those parameters are, we’re still unsure.

So I’m following the instructions there e.g. ‘place on the ground and cover with simulated forest litter’, but also experimenting a little with whether to place them flat, pointy end down, pointy end up etc, with and without seed husks on . . etc!

Has anyone done this in a methodical way and have any tips on best way to do it? maybe @murrnong @rob.fenton @robert @southernblueregen ?

Kirsten, I have not sprouted Bunyas myself, but I read that its best to
plant with the pointy end of the seed down, or at least sideways. I would
put it shallowly in soil in our climate, not just on top. I gather it
shoots from this pointy end, makes a small tuber, then sprouts the tree
seedling from that tuber. People get good germination results if the seed
is good. But takes time, and of course you need to protect the seedling
from wildlife, grass competition, and livestock! Which is why people
usually grow the seedlings at home then plant out into protected and
managed sites as seedlings.

David Arnold

Thanks David! ok that’s great, because that sort of felt right and I’ve done a lot that way :slight_smile: I’ve also used some existing exclosures and tree guards where I found some, so fingers crossed. I’ve put some in the garden in Violet Town too, which could be pretty funny if our lease finishes and bunya pines start popping up some random time in the future . . note to self to let the landlord know if we move out :wink:

We could lend you some pots, so you don’t lose what is in the garden. Saves
damaging the tap root when digging them up from the garden.

David Arnold

Hi Kirsten. I’ve grown lots of bunya pines from seed and it’s not hard, just takes a while. I usually lay the seeds on top of a good soil mix in a 10 inch pot or bigger and cover with more soil. Wet and leave. Or you can place them on soil in a seedling tray or similar and cover with a wet bag. Check regularly and plant the ones that sprout. They will send a tap root down for a good 8 inches or so before producing a lignotuber down about 2 inches. Only then will they produce a shoot from the tuber that emerges above ground. These are tender and easily damaged but they will keep growing again, but it’s better to trim to one shoot. I have kicked over pots, thinking nothing was happening, to find them full of tap roots and tubers nearly a year on from planting. They’re pretty tough once going and can be potted up a number of times before planting out. My oldest ones are just coning now after about 20 years. Hope l live long enough to eat a few.
Brian from Commonground


Thanks @jessicaandbrian!! That’s a slightly different strategy so I’ll try that with some of the ones I have left :slight_smile:

Hi Jessica and Brian, (or others who can help)

I read that you have a lot of experience with the Bunya Pine seeds and therefore I have some questions for you if you might be kind enough to share your knowledge please…

So I have recently collected hundreds of Bunya Pine seeds from a 100+ year old Bunya Pine tree. About two weeks ago, two pine cones fell from the tree. I promptly collected these to save them from the squirrels. An acquaintance asked that I mail these off so that he could grow the seeds into trees. Upon receipt he said he did some sort of float test and only about 3% of the seeds sunk. These were very fresh seeds and I hadn’t even taken them out of their individual little pockets (not sure what to call them, kind of like an artichoke leaf if you will) from the pine cone. One of the pine cones was sent complete. Of all of the seeds that I sent, probably only about 20 of them were completely stripped bare. Anyhow, my acquaintance says that these are basically garbage. I find that somewhat offensive but before I respond, I would like to get some input from someone with much more experience planting these seeds (you!). Do you think that just because they float or sink it lends itself directly to viability, to the fact that these will grow into saplings from seeds? I’ve read elsewhere that simply squeezing the seeds can tell a lot about their viability. I read somewhere else yet that if you are trying to perform the float test on this particular seed that they should be left in the water for 72 hours to see if they sink at that point, and even then, that does not indicate absolute viability or not. I would very, very much respect and appreciate your opinion in this matter. Thank you.

On another note, I’ve not eaten these and I hope to the future pine cones that I collect. Might you have a favorite recipe?

Thank you in advance!

Hi Friend of Bunya Pine,
I have heard of the float test for seeds but certainly wouldn’t use it as a definitive conclusion to their viability. My experience has shown that there can be quite a lot of space inside the nut which would affect the buoyancy and you would have to leave them soaking for a long time to get any idea. The squash test works but the nuts are hard and you don’t want to damage them. One way l have done it is to press the seeds into tray of soil just deep enough so you can still see the pointy end. Preferably the way up that they are present in the cone, cover with a hessian bag, and keep moist for ages. You’ll see the root start to poke out of the pointy end when it’s ready and you can then pot them up. Can take quite a while though. The Aborigines used to eat as many as they could when they were ready but would also bury a lot in moist sandy spots to be retrieved many months later when they had sprouted and formed the starchy lignotuber. These were eaten before they had sent up the shoot that actually becomes the tree. Very clever, but required good timing. You can also just plant them close together in say 10 inch pots, at about the seed’s depth, preferably with a little of the soil from where they are growing just in case they need some bacterial action that might be present. They will sprout and send a root down to the bottom and form a lignotuber beneath the seed well before you see any sign aboveground of the eventual shoot. You can periodically check the bottom of the pot for roots, or break the whole thing open, check for roots and rebuild it as necessary. They won’t all behave the same but it gets easier to see which seeds have a chance. I have kicked over a big pot in my nursery in disgust and found lots of seeds had sprouted lovely roots but just hadn’t got to the point of sending up a shoot from the tuber yet. Can take months. One green cone l was given took ages to open up enough to dismantle, becoming a talking point in the lounge room, and when it finally decided to loosen up about 6 seeds had sprouted by themselves and were busily sending roots down inside the centre of the cone which had softened. The rest we either ate or l planted and think l got more to sprout. You could feasibly just put a layer of seeds between hessian bags that sat in a shallow tray of water to keep them moist and check them periodically for roots. Once you find one root keep looking as more will follow, just don’t let the whole lot dry out. After you get some going don’t worry too much if the top gets damaged or broken off. One of the functions of the lignotuber is to store energy and dormant buds to reshoot if damage occurs. Just let them go and prune to the strongest shoot eventually. They make good pot plants coming with their own defence system against critters and children. Can’t imagine having to climb one to knock the cones off but apparently that’s what was done. Ouch.
Where are you with squirrels and a 100+ Bunya? Long way from the Bunya Mountains in Queensland l presume.
As for eating, just roasted like chestnuts will do it. Or you could experiment by boiling them and making pesto. You’ll only need a couple of nuts. Makes those little pine nuts you buy in packets look a bit silly.
Hope this helps.

Oh, excellent! I had a strong feeling that you would be the right person to ask. I deeply appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to help out a fellow Bunya Bunya tree lover. I am located in Southern California and we have many Bunya Pine seed Clint and other related trees throughout the area. About one hundred and some-odd years ago there was an expedition to California to bring trees back with the Union Pacific Railroad and some of these trees were propagated by a prominent local nursery woman who made an agreement with the city of San Diego to plant trees throughout the city as well as our local 1200 acre Park, Balboa Park, and I have heard of similar trees in Los Angeles and San Francisco and suburbs in all three cities. I don’t have 100 trees in front of me but I probably have a thousand squirrels nearby, LOL But I do have a couple of the trees which we believe had to do with the aforementioned, and likely measure at least 20 meters presently. The area has a Mediterranean climate and sits on the slope of a coastal mesa. Within 2 miles of my home there are trees from every continent in the world except Antarctica, is my understanding. I do feel blessed. Thank you again!

Highest regards!

:heart: The change in the world begins inside of you.

Sounds lovely.
Our trees were confined to an area in Southern Queensland until white colonisation and were highly prized by the tribes who used them. Why they didn’t expand their habitat is a question as they did have vast knowledge of nature and traded stuff across the country. It took Baron von Mueller to spread the seeds right across Aus when he created the idea of botanical gardens in towns. There’s big Bunya all over the country in town parks as well as all the other trees he loved. They seem to do well from Hobart to Darwin and here in Southern Victoria there are some great examples. Why they haven’t been planted more is probably a question more to do with time to return and our lack of history regarding long term investment in trees. I have propagated many trees from another old garden under the Baron’s influence, including from a couple of Redwoods that were more than 100ft tall over 30 yrs ago. The best of ours would be about 30ft or more now, they seem to like it here too. And no squirrels, but we do have many different parrots that will tear the cones apart and possums and bush rats to deal with fallen nuts.
Hope you have some luck with propagating the Bunya seed, they grow well and make a lovely pot plant until such time as you release them. The biggest ones l have planted are probably only about 20ft tall but had their first cones last year. Unfortunately they shed them or the bloody cockatoos nipped them off at the size of normal pine cones, maybe next year. They have a long way to go. It would be interesting to chase down the existing Bunya over there, my mate Phil recently found a beauty in Portugal while on holiday. Bit of a surprise. Perhaps you could take a few pics of yours and post them here, not sure if you can do it.
Great to talk trees with you.

Jessica and/or Brian,

Can I get a valid email address…I am having a dispute with a person that sold me approximately 300 Bunya Pine seeds from California. When the seeds arrived…and after careful inspection I could tell that just based on the weight of the seed…the rattling of the inside of the seed…and a quick float test…that only 10-15 were viable…I cut open one of the seeds and as I suspected the insides…the meat of the seed had shrunk and shriveled up. I have grown several Araucaria species from seed over the last 3 years…so I know from experience what a viable seed looks and feels like. I would like to send you a link to pictures of a random sampling of the seeds I was sent. The seller has determined that you are the expert on Bunya Pine seeds…so that is why I am contacting you.

I am asking for an email address…because I will be sharing the pictures with you from my Google Photos account.


Jessica and/or Brian,

Please review my previous reply…regarding the viability of Bunya Pine seeds I received.

I value your opinion with regards to the viability of the seeds sent to me.


Hi Clint,
Obviously these seeds are useless. Wether they have been left too long or were never pollinated in the first place l can’t tell. As you know they should be pretty full in the seed case and be firm and a nice beige colour. They should look edible, and indeed be so. I’m sorry to have caused any dispute but was asked for my opinion on growing them sight unseen. The cones should be a nice green colour until they soften and open up and the seeds kept as you would for chestnuts, in a plastic bag in the fridge, otherwise they will dry out and become useless for eating or planting. Hope you get some to grow but if they are all like this l don’t like your chances. Perhaps you could check out some other trees and see if you have better luck.

Don’t suppose it will help any but if you tell me how to post pictures from my computer onto this forum, as you have done, l have a pot in the nursery that l just checked and you can see sprouted seeds from the top. l could break it up and show you the rest as l pot them up and l have a lovely little one about 3ft high in a bigger tub from a year or so ago.

Brian…thanks for the quick reply…and thanks for your expert opinion
regarding the viability off the seeds that were sold to me and that I
pictured for the group.

As for how to post pictures on this forum…here is what I did:

  1. select a picture you would like to post
  2. right click somewhere in the body of the picture…and a little options
    picture will pop up…one of the options should be “Copy Image”
  3. click on the “Copy Image” option
  4. go back to your Forum message that you are crafting…then right
    click…somewhere…any where…you’d like to see the picture
    located…after you right click…another little options picture will pop
    up…and one of the options should be “Paste”…click on the “Paste”
    option…you will see some text and a % indicator as the image is uploaded
    to your Forum message…a moment or 2 after you see 100%…a line of text
    will indicate the file name of the picture you uploaded.

I am a new member and was only allowed 2 images per message…I suppose
that number will increase as the member increases activity on the Forum.

I too have a couple of 3ft high potted Bunya’s that I bought as
seedlings…my goal was to get some seeds and try my hand at growing the
Bunya from seed…I have grown several other species of Araucaria as well
as their ancient 3rd cousin…and your national treasure…the Wollemia
noblis (Wollemi Pine)…they are all easy to grow from seed…if the seeds
are viable.

Thanks again for your confirmation that the seeds I pictured here on the
Forum were not viable…now I hope the seller will acknowledge this fact.


Hi! I’m new. @jessicaandbrian you hit the word “upload” on the bottom right of the box in which you type your message. I also have a question. Do you grow Bunya nuts by retaining the husk and simply planting it whole or must the husk be removed to reveal the nut which is them planted. The husk is very tough so I wouldn’t know how to remove it without hurting the nut inside. I’m gauging from previous posts that planting husk and all should work? I hope someone can help.

You plant the nut husk and all. As you say the husk is very tough and you would destroy the nut trying to remove it. Once it has soaked up sufficient moisture and it’s ready, the nut will force a root out the pointy end of the husk and head down. It will grow downwards for 8 to 10 inches and then form a lignotuber up near the nut from which a shoot will grow upwards to the light. This will take some time, often a year or more. If you have lots of nuts you can place them between moist hessian bags or on moist soil and cover them with moist hessian bags. This enables you to see the nuts that shoot which you can then plant in pots.
Hope this helps.

Dear @jessicaandbrian,

through some extensive research on the Bunya pine I have come to this forum :slight_smile: I hope to plant a Bunya pine on our land in Greece. Time is not really an issue for us. We are planning the design of this land to be quite permanent. Thinking in generations rather than our lifetime. That is where the Bunya pine comes in. It seems like such a great plant to provide nutrients and starch and I am in love with its looks as well! :smiley: No doubt it will do wonders for the local birds as they hardly have any high perches around here.

Anyway, my question is mainly of how it will do in our climate. We get about 600mm of rain a year, most of which falls in the winter. Its a classical Mediterranean climate really. I have big plans with swales and other water infiltrating features but I would also like to trial some plants to reforest the landscape.
I have a few questions I hope you might be able to answer!

Does the Bunya produce a deep taproot in the long term? Do you know how deep? The winds can be pretty fierce in winter and I wouldn’t want to plant a tall tree like that if it doesn’t anchor itself down properly. I already read it puts down a tap root when you first plant it but wonder how deep that goes.

Does it survive long periods of no rain? I guess that overlaps with the first question but still. We can get a few rain storms in our 5/6 month long summer. If it needs to be watered that might become a problem in the future.

Can it survive occasional frost? I have seen reports of it growing in Italy, which is much further north of here. We might get a few days of frost a year. But never very long and always picking up again in the day. I have observed avocados and banana’s growing nearby. Though the banana’s were damaged by the frost this winter.

Is it self-fertile? I have looked but cannot find it.

Well, I guess I can come up with quite a few more questions, but lets keep it at this for now :wink:

Kind regards,

The Bunya in a botanical garden in Italy.

Dear Bram,
Your climate sounds perfect. The Bunya is indigenous to the Bunya Mountains in Southern Queensland, which if you google it will tell you about that area. They were planted all over Australia however by Baron von Mueller and his followers in many botanical gardens, to as far south as Hobart in Tasmania.

As for tap roots and stability, it’s a bit hard to know how far they go down but they do give the impression that it’s a long way. They are not the sort of tree to blow over in a storm. You definitely don’t see them as casualties after high winds. At least l never have, and l have seen lots of them over the years. Being an Australian tree they are also quite used to long periods of dry weather. They don’t shrivel up and die easy, just sort of don’t do much growing. You can grow them up in pots to a metre or more before planting them out, or plant them from seed in situ if you can protect them when they are emerging from the ground. Best to try all avenues if you can source enough seed. I usually place the seed on moist soil in a tray and cover with a moist hessian sack. Keep moist and you will eventually see the root starting to emerge from the pointy end. At this point you can pot them up or plant and protect where you want them. They will send down a long root, form a lignotuber, and eventually send up a shoot from the tuber. This may take a long time. I’ve tipped pots out that l thought were doing nothing only to find a heap of tubers and roots with nothing showing above ground at all. So be patient. Best to plant lots if you can, they may take 15 to 20 years to cone and produce nuts. They are something you really do for your grandchildren, but are stunning trees and provide the best shelter for birds to nest in as they are totally armoured with sharp pointy hard leaves. The football sized cones are stunning and the nuts inside are delicious roasted like chestnuts or boiled etc. The Aboriginals treated them with great respect and had huge feasts of them as well as planting a lot in moist sand and coming back later and eating the starchy lignotubers as well after they had sprouted. Also beautiful wood for furniture etc.

Let me know how you go.


Slightly off topic, but I would very much appreciate your advice … I have several Bunya growing in the bush of highlands of central Victoria (700m above sea level, 500-700mm rain, snow, clay, @700-900 chill hours / year), and they were growing really well from seed until I planted them out in dappled shade (I was careful to minimise root disturbance as they plants are about 50cm high - and they had been hardened off for about 12 months in similar temperature and light conditions). I thought they would be safe from the wallaby but it has seriously pruned every plant - gnawing on most branches! Now they appear to be going brown … is there anything I can do? Are they likely to recover? (I have put tree guards around them to stop the pesky macrapod). Thank you so much, I’ve nursed these little babies for years and am keen to protect them.