Macadamia is a genus of nine species of flowering
plants in the family Proteaceae, with a disjunct
distribution native to eastern Australia (seven species),
New Caledonia (one species M. neurophylla) and Sulawesi in
Indonesia (one species, M. hildebrandii).
They are small to large evergreen trees growing to 2–12
m tall. The leaves are arranged in whorls of three
to six, lanceolate to obovate or elliptical in shape, 6–30
cm long and 2–13 cm broad, with an entire or
spiny-serrated margin. The flowers are produced in a long
slender simple raceme 5–30 cm long, the individual flowers
10–15 mm long, white to pink or purple, with four tepals.
The fruit is a very hard woody globose follicle with a
pointed apex, containing one or two seeds.
The genus is named after John Macadam, a colleague of
botanist Ferdinand von Mueller, who first described the
genus. Common names include Macadamia, Macadamia nut,
Queensland nut, Bush nut, Maroochi nut, Queen of Nuts and
bauple nut; Indigenous Australian names include gyndl,
jindilli, and boombera.
The nuts are a valuable
food crop. Only two of the species, Macadamia integrifolia
and Macadamia tetraphylla, are of commercial importance.
The remainder of the genus possess poisonous and/or
inedible nuts, such as M. whelanii and M. ternifolia; the
toxicity is due to the presence of cyanogenic glycosides.
These glycosides can be removed by prolonged leaching, a
practice carried out by some Indigenous Australian people
in order to use these species as well.
The two species of edible macadamia readily hybridize,
and M. tetraphylla is threatened in the wild due to this.
The nut was first discovered by Europeans south of
Brisbane in 1828 by the explorer and botanist Alan
Cunningham. One of the locations where wild nut trees were
originally found was at Mount Bauple near Maryborough in
southeast Queensland, Australia. Locals in this area still
refer to them as "Bauple nuts". The macadamia nut is the
only plant food native to Australia that is produced and
exported in any significant quantity.
The first commercial orchard of macadamia trees was
planted in the early 1880s by Charles Staff at Rous Mill,
12 km southeast of Lismore, New South Wales, consisting of
M. tetraphylla. Besides the development of a small
boutique industry in Australia during the late 19th and
early 20th century, macadamia was extensively planted as a
commercial crop in Hawaii from the 1920s. Macadamia seeds
were first imported into Hawaii in 1882 by William H.
Purvis. The young manager of the Pacific Sugar Mill at
Kukuihaele on the Big Island, planted seed nuts that year
The Hawaiian-produced macadamia established the nut
internationally. However, in 2006, macadamia production
began to fall in Hawaii, due to lower prices from an
Outside of Hawaii and Australia, macadamia is also
commercially produced in South Africa, Brazil, California,
Costa Rica, Israel, Kenya, Bolivia, New Zealand, Colombia
and Malawi. Australia is now the world's largest
commercial producer - at approximately 40,000 tonnes of
nut in shell per year, with a total global production of
Macadamia stakeholders try to establish international
council or organization to group together members in the
macadamia agriculture and businesses. There are several
international meeting on the matter. The latest is being
arranged in Thailand at the Chaiyaphum Province's Sai
Thong National Park of Nong Bua Rawe District called
"International Macadamia Symposium" during 25-27 June 2010
featuring academic presentation, new research and studies
of macadamia use in nutritional and medical benefits.
The organizer group together macadamia stakeholders
from various macadamia related background and demonstrate
international initiation on macadamia for the use in
health, poverty reduction, reforestation, etc as the plant
has highly lucrative potential for farmers and
agriculturalists in many developing countries.
(www.rawedistrict.com for related and additional symposium
for macadamia stakeholders and businesses)
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