Look Out Below, Bunyas Above

A wheel barrow full of Bunya cones from the Bunya Pine at Vaucluse House

The Bunya cones all in a wheel barrow. Beware, they are as spiky as the trees. Photo Steven Halliday © Sydney Living Museums

It’s been a busy few months in the Gardens Team, spring has hit us hard and fast. The rain combined with the warm days has left us fighting to keep up with the rapid speed of grass growth at our properties. Wednesday’s heavy rain has given me some down time to show you the size of our Bunya Bunya Tree (Araucaria bidwillii) cones that have fallen during recent high winds.

Last Friday we turned up to find five of the bunya cones on the ground scattered under and around the youngest of our Bunya trees on the Carriage Loop at Vaucluse House, by days end we had collected nine cones. It always comes as a shock to find the cones on the ground because you usually have no idea they are even up there growing in the tree. The cones seem to grow only at the peak of the trees and not down low where they might be visible; up high they blend in with the foliage and become invisible.

The Bunya Tree at Vaucluse house, showing the exclusion zone around the tree.

This is the Bunya tree that dropped the cones in the previous pictures. This picture also shows our temporary barriers to discourage entry.

Photo Steven Halliday © Sydney Living Museums

Research says they fruit roughly every three years, but this particular plant has produced cones nearly every year for as far as I can recall. Our much bigger specimen near the car park at Vaucluse House is far more unpredictable and I have only seen it drop cones 2-3 times over the past 10 years. We keep an eye on the trees with binoculars but it’s still almost impossible to see if there are cones up there or not till they crash to the ground. Last year the cones on the Bunya trees at Elizabeth Farm were eaten by Corellas before they even got a chance to hit the ground, taking away some of the dangers for us.

Once the trees start to drop cones, we usually barricade off the area and place signage just to warn visitors of the dangers that are above. We weighed our largest cone so far and it came in at 3.3kgs; imagine that hitting you on the head from a great height!

You can come and see the size and weight of the cones for yourself as we have one on display in the shop/entry to Vaucluse House.

I’ve always wanted to try and make a Bunya nut pesto, but been put off by the process involved to get the nut out; hopefully I will get around to it one year. Check out more about the Bunya Bunya trees from our Cook and the Curator blog here.

The large size of the Bunya cone is show in the hand of Steve Halliday

The largest of the fallen cones held in my hand shows you the size, and this is from one of our smallest trees.

Photo Steven Halliday © Sydney Living Museums

The largest Bunya Cone at Vaucluse House on the scales, weighing in at 3.3kgs

Proof of weight. 3.3kgs! Cones can grow to as heavy as 10kgs.

Photo Steven Halliday © Sydney Living Museums

Signage we placed around the Bunya Tree to stop people from entering the drop zone at Vaucluse house.

Exclusion from the 'Drop Zone' was put up with signage to warn people of the dangers. Strangely not long after this photo that cone went missing.

Photo Steven Halliday © Sydney Living Musuems

About the author

Photograph of a man standing beside a garden shed

Steve Halliday


Steven is one of the horticulturists who takes care of Sydney Living Museums’ green spaces and gardens.