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No. 38: Macadamia Ternifolia,


The Queensland Nut

(Natural Order PROTEACEÆ.)

Botanical description

— Genus, Macadamia, F.v.M., in Trans. Phil. Inst., Vict. ii, 72.

Flowers. — Hermaphrodite.

Perianth. — Regular or slightly irregular, the tube opening earlier on the under side, and the segments, at least the lower ones, less revolute than in Helicia.

Anthers. — On short filaments inserted a little below the laminae, the connective produced into a gland or very short appendage.

Hypogynous glands. — Equal, distinct or united in a ring or cup round the ovary.

Ovary. — Sessile, with a long straight style, ovoid or clavate at the end, with a small terminal stigma; ovules 2, descending, laterally attached at or near the top.

Fruit. — Globular, indehiscent, with a hard thick putamen, and rather thin fleshy exocarp.

Seeds. — Either solitary and globular, or two and hemispherical; testa membranous.

Cotyledons. — Thick and fleshy.

Trees or tall shrubs.

Leaves. — Verticillate, entire, or serrate.

Flowers. — Pedicellate in pairs, in terminal or axillary simple racemes, the pedicels not connate.

Bracts. — Very deciduous.

Botanical description

— Species, M. ternifolia, Trans. Phil. Inst., Vict. ii, 72 with a plate.

A small tree with very dense foliage, glabrous, or the young branches and inflorescence minutely pubescent.

Leaves. — Sessile or nearly so, in whorls of three or four, oblong or lanceolate, acute, serrate, with fine or prickly teeth or entire, glabrous and shining, from a few inches to about 1 ft. long.

Racemes. — Almost as long as the leaves, with numerous small cowers, the pairs often clustered or almost verticillate.

Pedicels. — At first very short, and not above 2 lines when in fruit.

Perianth. — Minutely pubescent or glabrous, nearly 3 lines long.

Hypogynoums glands. — United in a ring.

Ovary. — Villous; style-end clavate.

Fruit. — With a 2-valved fleshy exocarp; the putamen globular, smooth and shining, thick and woody, often above 1 inch in diameter. (B.Fl. v, 406.)

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Variety integrifolia, Maiden and Betche.

In Proc. Linn. Soc., N.S.W., 1896, p. 624, Mr. Betche and I described a Macadamia under the name M. integrifolia, from Camden Eaven, N.S.W. It was stated that it is readily distinguished from M. ternifolia by the petiolate entire leaves, rather small fruits, and less hairy fiowers and inflorescence. Although the tree looks sufficiently different from M. ternifolia, one of us has since examined the material in the Melbourne Herbarium, and we have come to the conclusion (Proc. Linn. Soc., N.S.W., 1899, p. 150) that it can only be regarded as a variety. We found all degrees of transition between the two extreme forms, and have been forced to the conclusion that it is merely another instance of the great variability of the Proteaceous trees from which the Order derives its name.

Mr. F. M. Bailey (Queensland Flora, p. 1330) says:

There are probably three forms of this species, viz., the typical; another with nuts, only half the size of the typical. These nuts I have only received from the Pine River, but hitherto I have never received specimens of other parts of the tree or shrub. The third seems only to differ from the typical form in the leaves being usually more lanceolate, and in habit. It grows in the Maroochie scrubs, and instead of a single stem several arise from a spreading rhizome-like base some little distance from each other. These attain the height of 15 or more feet, and are said after fruiting to die early; the leaves are of a thinner texture than the typical form, but the nut differs in nothing from the common form.

Botanical Name

— macadamia, in honor of John Macadam, M.D., of Victoria, Hon. Sec. of the Philosophical Institute of Victoria at the time the plant was described before that body; ternifolia, Latin, terni (three together), the leaves being commonly in threes. They, however, sometimes form a whorl of four, and in very rare instances, even five.

Vernacular Name

— The name Queensland Nut is in universal use, owing to the tree having been first discovered in the northern State. It was subsequently found in New South Wales also, but the first name is firmly fixed, and is likely to remain so.

Aboriginal Name

— "Kindal Kindal" of the aborigines, who knew the tree well.


— Helicia ternifolia, F. Muell., Fragm ii, 91; vi, 191.


— The variation in the number of leaves in the whorl and of the margin has already been alluded to.

In Bull. del Laboratorio ed Orto Botanico da Siena. Fasc., 2-3 (1898), Prof. Tassi describes, and at Tav. xii figures, a new fungus (Macrophoma Macadamiæ, n. sp.) on this tree.


— This tree bears an edible nut of excellent flavour, relished both by aborigines and Europeans. As it forms a nutritious article of food to the former, timbergetters are not allowed to fell these trees. It is well worth extensive cultivation, for the nuts are always eagerly bought. Is said to take seven years from the time the nuts are planted before the tree reaches maturity and bears fruit.

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E. André, in the Revue Horticole, speaks very highly of this ornamental and useful tree. He says:—

The ripe fruit, however, is more particularly interesting. Usually one of the two ovules is abortive, and the surviving one fills the whole of the interior of the shell with its white, firm, close-grained albumen, forming a kernel which is as crisp as that of a hazel nut, but has a higher aroma, and a finer flavour. We have gathered and eaten these nuts in the month of December. Macadamia ternifolia is a tree which should be cultivated, both from an ornamental and economic point of view. Even if it yielded no fruit, it would make a fine appearance in gardens in the south of France, where the specimens already planted have passed uninjured through winters as severe as that of 1890-91, but how greatly enhanced would be the interest and importance attaching to this species if we could look forward to the discovery of some feasible mode of inducing the trees to yield a regular supply of their pleasantly-flavoured nuts.


— Wood firm, fine-grained, and ornamental, as all Proteaceous timbers are, and takes a good polish. It is of a reddish colour, and is stated to be occasionally used for staves, cabinet-work, veneers, shingles, and bullock-yokes. It seems a pity to use our best nut trees for any such purpose.


— I have seen a small quantity of exudation from a log of this tree.


— Rarely more than 30 feet high, with a stem diameter of 8 inches. Forms a fine bushy tree under cultivation.


— Found in most of the brush country on the Tweed and Richmond Rivers, N.S.W. It comes as far south as near Camden Haven, which I believe is the most southern limit. The Queensland localities given in the Flora Australiensis are Pine River and Moreton Bay (W. Hill); Dawson and Burnett Rivers (Leichhardt); with the leaves less toothed, and the flowers rather larger.


Plate 40: The Queensland Nut (Macadamia ternifolia, F.v.M.) Lithograph by M. Flockton

  • A. Perianth, opened out.
  • B. Sessile ovary, with long straight style, clavate at the end.
    • a. Hypogynous glands united in a ring round the ovary.
  • C. Anther.
  • D. Fruit, showing exocarp and putamen.
  • E. Vertical section showing two fleshy cotyledons.
  • F. Leaves of variety integrifolia.

Supplementary Material Added at the End of Volume 2

No. 38. Part X.

Macadamia ternifolia, F.v.M.


(Natural Order PROTEACEÆ.)

See an Illustrated Article by W. J. Allen, in Agricultural Gazette, New South Wales, Oct. 1905, p. 1026.

Supplementary Material Added To Volume 4

No. 38. Part X. See also vol. ii, p. 202.

Macadamia ternifolia, F.v.M. THE QUEENSLAND NUT. (Family PROTEACEÆ.)

Leaves. — See vol. i, p. 217. A well-known Australian plant, M. ternifolia, F. Muell., the " Queensland Nut, " must, according to my analysis at Kew, he considered among the most strongly cyanogenetic [ i.e., producing hydrocyanic (prussic) acid owing to fermentative changes. — J.H.M. ] plants; in the fresh leaf the hydrocyanic acid content was more than 0.1 per cent. Our chemical knowledge of this order (Proteaceæ) is still very slight. (Phytochemical investigations at Kew by the late Dr M. Greshoff, Kew Bulletin, No. 10, 1909, p. 413.


"Queensland Nut" in the Botanic Gardens, Sydney. — (Government Printer, photo.)

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