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August 4, 2021

Endangered macadamias find a permanent home

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Macadamia Lismore Botanic Garden L to R_Jan De Nardi, Jolyon Burnett, Ian McConachie
From left Jan De Nardi (vice-president of the Friends of The Lismore Rainforest Botanic Gardens), Jolyn Burnett (chief executive officer Australian Macadamia Society Ltd) and Ian McConachie (former chairman and founder of Macadamia Conservation Trust). Photo Jacklyn Wagner

Australia’s favourite nut and one of the northern rivers’ best exports – the macadamia – is so ubiquitous that who would have thought the original varieties could be an endangered species?

But, strange as it seems, that proves to be the case.

Most of the Big Scrub that was once home to the macadamia has of course been cleared and, with it, most of the original varieties have vanished.

Enter the Macadamia Conservation Trust and Lismore City Council,  who have hatched a plan to conserve and protect wild macadamias by planting the endangered species in perpetuity at the Lismore Rainforest Botanic Gardens.

Last weekend, the two well-known commercial species, Macadamia integrifolia and Macadamia tetraphylla, were planted alongside the rare Macadamia ternifolia and Macadamia jansenii, making it the first time all four species have been displayed together in the region.

Historian and representative of the Macadamia Conversation Trust, Ian McConachie AM, said the industry was thrilled to be working with Lismore City Council to rescue the Australian icon from extinction and educate the local community.

‘There is a lack of public awareness of the wild macadamia species and an ever-increasing number of threats to their existence. They are highly vulnerable to risks such as fire, weeds, vandalism, urban sprawl and population growth,’ Mr McConachie said.

‘By planting all four species in Lismore Rainforest Botanic Gardens, we’re highlighting the real risk of extinction in the future and conserving their genetics while allowing the public to view and appreciate our beautiful indigenous flora,’ he said.

‘The Macadamia tetraphylla tree, commonly known as the rough-shelled macadamia or the bush nut, originated from tiny remnants now left of the Big Scrub and symbolises what was Australia’s largest single rainforest.’

The trees, taken from local rainforests, will have signage placed next to their new home to illustrate and educate the community about the Australian macadamia story. It will take approximately four to five years for the species to flower and about 10 years to become fully mature. They grow best in subtropical conditions of good soil, warmth and rain.

Lismore City Council assisted by planting and maintaining the trees in the Botanic Gardens, which have been established on waste land on the southern outskirts of Lismore by a dedicated group of local volunteers with the indispensable support of Lismore City Council.

It is estimated that more than 80 per cent of wild macadamia trees have been lost since European settlement with many of the remaining populations at risk of extinction today. The Macadamia Conservation Trust is a not-for-profit environmental organisation aimed at conserving wild macadamias in their native habitat as well as facilitating research and education.

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