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Monster pine cones harvested at Werribee

Wednesday 19 March, 2014

Visitors strolling through Werribee Parks Gardens are now much less likely to be hit by a pinecone falling from one of the twelve Bunya Bunya Pine trees growing there.

Park Horticultural staff and intern students took to the skies in a cherry picker to remove the huge cones which can weigh up to 12kg.

“Unlike a lot of other pine cones these fall to ground intact, and being around the size of a pineapple, they can do quite a lot of damage if they land on someone’s head,” says Senior Horticulturalist Adam Smith.

“These Jurassic looking heritage trees are very old and huge, so we needed to go about 45metres vertically upwards to collect around a hundred cones. The biggest challenge for us was how to remove them safely in windy conditions at such a great height."

Bunya pines usually drop their cones around this time of year as they reach maturity, so part of the park’s tree management program is to harvest them every two years so that staff, visitors and vehicles are not damaged by these falling missiles.

Bunya Bunya's are one of the largest cone bearing trees in the world, and two of the Werribee Park trees are listed on the National Trust’s Significant Tree register.

Despite being natural bombshells, the cones are actually soft-shelled and each contains about 80 large, nutritious nuts which are a traditional food of Indigenous Australians. They can be eaten raw or cooked, and also ground into a paste to make a kind of bread when cooked in hot coals.

However these Werribee Park seeds won’t be eaten, but rather kept and propagated by Horticultural students in the Parks Heritage Sunken Glasshouse.

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