Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Bunya-Bunya Tree, False Monkey Puzzle Tree
Araucaria bidwillii

Family: Araucariaceae
Genus: Araucaria (air-ah-KAIR-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: bidwillii (bid-WIL-lee-eye) (Info)

7 members have or want this plant for trade.

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Tropicals and Tender Perennials

over 40 ft. (12 m)

over 40 ft. (12 m)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From leaf cuttings

Seed Collecting:
Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing
Wear gloves to protect hands when handling seeds

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6 positives
3 neutrals
3 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive kmellaby On Aug 27, 2013, kmellaby from Brisbane
Australia wrote:

This is a beautiful, ancient and sacred tree. It is indigenous to my bio-region, and loved as a brother by many people. Looking at silhouettes of the trees emerging out of the canopy gives a feeling of content.
The large cones occur roughly every three years. This is a festival time in my part of the world. The nuts are nutritious and it is a privilege to eat them. They are designed to be shared.
As the harvest only occurs every few years, it is no trouble to either harvest the cones before they fall (rent a cherry picker, or bribe a rock climbing/abseiling friend) or simply cordon off the area and let the cones fall. It's no more trouble than regular pruning required by other trees.
If you wanted a coconut tree you'd be sensible about where it was planted and cautious while it fruited, same common sense applies here.

Positive guygee On Mar 13, 2013, guygee from Satellite Beach, FL wrote:

These trees are much better suited for the heat and humidity of Central Florida than Araucaria augustifolia in my experience. The Bunya pine is easy to propagate from seed for anyone with enough patience to wait for the cryptogeal germination process. I found that the key to more rapid propagation was to plant the seeds near the surface so that the cotyledonary tube that grows downward into the soil can be observed. When this tube is seen to rot off of the end of the seed, then the underground tuber can be retrieved by carefully sifting the soil and replanted near the surface to speed growth into a seedling tree.

Obviously since the adult plants will have very large cones the trees should not be planted where they may overhang buildings or traffic areas. Otherwise the fear of the falling cones seems silly compared to the dangers of driving or even getting struck by lightning. Indeed, I cannot find anywhere the report of even one serious injury much less a fatality caused by falling cones of this species (See Ghazal v Vella [2011] NSWLEC 1105).

It is said that the aboriginal peoples of Australia would set aside their differences and come together to feast on the pine nuts of this species in heavy-bearing years. People coming together peacefully to harvest food gets a positive response from me every time.

Negative Bunyabunyabewar On Jun 17, 2012, Bunyabunyabewar from Hermosa Beach, CA wrote:

My father's neighbor has this bunya bunya tree (Araucaria bidwillii, the bunya pine) in their front yard. This tree is very dangerous and is not suitable for a neighborhood. The cones that fall off of this tree every few years are huge and heavy. I was working on my car in his driveway a few years back and almost got hit by one of these falling cones. Since they grow near the top, they are hard to see because the tree is so tall. This tree is at least 50 years old. When the leaves fall they are hard and sharp and it is best to wear gloves when handling them for disposal. These trees would be better off away from civilization. This tree also has these white scale insects and white spots all over the leaves. It is an UGLY DANGEROUS TREE!

Neutral floramakros On Mar 7, 2012, floramakros from Davis, CA wrote:

Probably the least suitable Araucaria for the home garden, stick to viewing this unusual species in botanical gardens, parks etc. It's beautiful from afar, but the gigantic cones and razor sharp needles make any close contact potentially dangerous. The one good thing I can say is if you put one in your yard and you also have a chronic problem with cats using your garden for their litterbox as a friend of mine did, just one contact with this tree either by crawling under the needles or walking on a fallen branch will guarantee they'll never set foot in your yard again!

Positive digitalbeachbum On Jun 26, 2011, digitalbeachbum from Longwood, FL wrote:

I grew up thinking this was a true monkey puzzle tree because the previous owners of the house were told that was the name. The original owner of the property was the president of an Orlando based plant and tree society and had brought back the seeds from Australia.

The tree at my parent's house is roughly 40m tall. It last dropped pods (the size of bowling balls) in the Fall of 2005. I collected over 42 seed pods with an average of 75 seeds per pod.

I have BBQ'd, boiled, baked the seeds. I also have used them to create a paste and have used them for pancakes, breads and other dishes.

They are highly nutritious and very healthy seeds and are like a breadnut. 40% of the seed is made up of water, but they are high in (40%) complex carbohydrates and (9%) protein.

The wood is highly valued for furniture and other products.

I highly recommend never planting this tree near the house or areas of parking or playing. They deserve an open area away from other trees.

Negative JoRoGo On Jul 23, 2010, JoRoGo from Rockledge, FM (Zone 9a) wrote:

I live in East Central Florida in an area known as the "Space Coast" because of its proximity to Cape Canaveral. Specifically, I live in a town called Rockledge. At the end of my street is the Indian River, and the Atlantic Ocean (at Cocoa Beach) is about 10 miles away. Lots of water! Very high humidity!

I've rented this home for 7 years. The False Monkey Puzzle Tree was planted by the former tenants. This year (2010) is the first that the tree has produced seed pods. BIG seed pods! HEAVY seed pods! So far, 5 seed pods have dropped from the tree. Three have remained in the yard; two have rolled into the street. One took out a very large branch of the FMPT when it fell. I have yet to see (or hear) any pod fall from the tree. I just check the yard throughout the day to see whether or not another has arrived.

Due to the height of the tree -- and that it was erroneously planted between a Palm tree and Chinese Tallow tree -- it is very difficult to see if other pods remain in the FMPT. As it happens, because it is sufficiently windy today and the branches of the FMPT are moving, by using binoculars, I was able to determine that there *are* more pods in the tree. And there is something else in the tree -- something that is BIGGER than any of the pods, and with MUCH LARGER and MORE DANGEROUS spikes than appear on any pod. An arborist told me a few years ago that the FMPT will produce a fruit weighing approx. 40 lbs. I've no way of knowing whether what I saw is (or isn't) a fruit. What I *do* know, though, is that I will be calling an arborist and asking that he bring with him a very, very long telescoping ladder in order to determine what in the world is going on at the top of the FMPT. Maybe then I'll know when I can remove the "Caution" sign that warns people in the neighborhood not to walk, or park their cars, under the FMPT.

Lest I forget . . . yes, the "leaves" (or needles) of the FMPT are constantly falling from the tree, and they are VERY dangerous. You must wear leather gloves to pick up the leaves, whether the leaves are green (newly-fallen) or brown (dead).

Yes, I would agree that the FMPT is a VERY UNIQUE tree, but it should *only be planted* in an open area that does not get a lot of foot traffic from humans or animals.

I hope this helps someone deciding whether -- or where -- to plant a False Monkey Puzzle Tree.

Positive swamptreenelly On Sep 21, 2008, swamptreenelly from Newark, CA wrote:

One of the most beautiful pioneer conifers in our area. The canopy against the sky is very magical. The spines and cones need to drop where people do not dwell, away from cars and buildings and picnic sites. Growing them from seed reminds me how prehistoric they really are. An imblical like stem grows from the seed to the ground. The imblical like stem falls off and the tree emerges from a tuber like root. We have about 50 growing, My friend wants to plant a bunya bunya forest. Maybe the largest one in north america. I beleive there is a petrified forest of bunya bunyas in Arizona.

Neutral jljohnston On Apr 3, 2006, jljohnston from Modesto, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

In Modesto, California there is a Bunya Bunya in one of the city's oldest parks (Graceada) that was planted in 1916 to commemorate a meeting of "The Sons of The Golden West." It is 110' tall; to prevent injuries to park visitors, a large border of Pittosporum was arranged around it's base. There are other examples of this species around the city, which claims to be "The City of Trees."

Positive joannes On Jun 1, 2004, joannes from Kissimmee, FL wrote:

The largest of the 3 Bunya-Bunya trees in our neighborhood is far taller than any other tree within view. It draws a lot of attention for its enormous size, its graceful, dark green, upsweeping branches, its intensely green and symmetrical new groth, and its extremely hard and sharp leaves on long twigs. Stunningly beautiful, the Bunya-Bunya tree deserves a place a honor--far from homes and people--where it can be appreciated from a distance!

The Bunya-Bunya tree, whose leaves are acuminate at the tip and narrow at the base, differs from the Monkey Puzzle Tree (Araucaria araucana), whose leaves are acuminate at the tip, BROAD at the base, and overlapping.

Neutral insydney On Apr 5, 2004, insydney from sydney
Australia wrote:

The 'Bunyabunya' was a popular colonial plant in australia, particularly effective for marking the location of a homestead or boundary because of its distinctive silhouette. It is a native of northern NSW / southern Queensland. Like the monkeypuzzle it was also used for lining avenues, with the obvious disastrous results... Every 4 to 7 years the tree produces massive cones - up to 8 kilos or more. These form at the very top, and can crash down with no warning. (I was nearly taken out by one a few years back!) This heavy cropping - smaller cones are produced in other years - heralded a time of feasting for local aboriginal tribes. The nuts - 40 or more per cone - are edible, raw, roasted or ground. Cones are produced when the tree is older, say from 20 years. When mature the tree has its unnusual 'mushroom' shape. Leaves are very sharp. Seeds grow easily; remove from husks and lay on soil - any which way, they're not fussy. Because of their lethal reputation are now rare in Australian gardens / parks.

Negative badbunya On Sep 30, 2003, badbunya wrote:

This tree is dangerous, the needles can draw blood and the seed pods have been known to rip holes in cars after crashing down. Not recommended for any place where children or pets might be. The seeds are tasty though if you can get them out of the seed pod.

Positive palmbob On Aug 1, 2003, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

Since most of us in So Cal can't grow True Monkey Puzzle trees (too hot here), we settle for this one if we want a unique conifer with bizzare spiny 'leaves'. This tree is truly massive, though and gets up to near 100'. Though it is an impressive sight, it is also a bit dangerous as the cones can weigh over a pound and easily kill you after falling 100'. In So Cal this is a relatively slow growing tree for the first 3-5 years of its life, and then it does quite well.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Arroyo Grande, California
Camarillo, California
Encino, California
Escondido, California
Hayward, California
Modesto, California
North Hollywood, California
Reseda, California
San Diego, California
San Leandro, California
Sunland, California
Thousand Oaks, California
Vallejo, California
Woodland, California
Altamonte Springs, Florida
Miami, Florida
Saint Petersburg, Florida
Satellite Beach, Florida
Athens, Georgia
Austin, Texas
Houston, Texas
New Caney, Texas

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