Macadamia is a genus of four species of trees in the flowering plant family Proteaceae.
They are indigenous to Australia, native to northeastern New South Wales and central and southeastern Queensland specifically.
Two species of the genus are commercially important for their fruit, the macadamia nut, Macadamia tetraphylla and Macadamia integrifoIia.
Due to its long history (over 60 million years from genesis/origin!), the macadamia nut has many names. These different names generally reflect the various locations where the macadamia nut originated and was first used – and where the nut is still grown and harvested today.
Let’s explore their origin.
“My grandmother said ‘when I was a little girl I planted those nuts as I walked with my father along the Nerang river’ and she said ‘you call them Queensland nuts, I call them Goomburra’.”Yugambeh Elder Patricia O’Connor
Other names for the macadamia nut
In Butchulla language the word for macadamia is Baphal. The Butchulla People are the traditional owners and custodians of K’Gari (Fraser Island). Butchulla lands were concentrated in the centre of K’Gari (pronounced gurri – the “K” is silent), and extended to the coastal mainland.
Bauple or Bopple nut
The Bopple or Bauple nut name is derived from Mount Bauple near the town of Bauple south of Maryborough. Many Macadamia integrifolia nut trees used to grow on and around the Mountain and many people on the Sunshine Coast use variations of Bauple or Bopple as the common name for Macadamia integrifolia.
Bush nut or Rough Shelled nut
The brown shell of Macadamia tetraphylla is quite rough or lumpy compared to the smooth shell of the Macadamia integrifoIia. So the name ‘bush nut’ or ‘rough shelled nut’ specifically refers to the variety that grows from the Gold Coast to Northern NSW, Macadamia tetraphylla.
In the 1930’s ‘bush nut’ was considered ‘common’ and use of this name was strongly discouraged by the Australian Nut Association!
Gumburra or Goomburra
In Yugambeh language the word for macadamia nut is Gumburra or Goomburra.
The Yugambeh language people are the traditional custodians of the land located in south-east Queensland and north-east New South Wales, now within the Logan City, Gold Coast, Scenic Rim, and Tweed City regions whose ancestors all spoke one or more dialects of the Yugambeh Language.
Yugambeh Elder Patricia O’Connor shares a story of macadamia nuts being planted by Indigenous people traveling through Country.
“My grandmother said ‘when I was a little girl I planted those nuts as I walked with my father along the Nerang river’ and she said ‘you call them Queensland nuts, I call them Goomburra’. Yugambeh Elder Patricia O’Connor.
Gympie nut is the common name for a non edible species, Macadamia ternifolia that grows between Brisbane and Gympie.
The macadamia nut was first commercially produced on a wide scale in Hawaii.
Hawaii’s success as a commercial producer of macadamias was built on nuts brought from just one or two Australian trees in the early 1900s.
A Hawaiian plant collector and sugar cane farmer, William Purvis saw the trees during his travels to Australia, and introduced them to his sugar cane plantation in Hawaii to act as a windbreak.
In the early twentieth century, the Hawaiian Agricultural Experiment Station began to encourage planting of the nut to supplement coffee crops. This idea was seized upon by businessman Ernest Van Tassel who established the Hawaii Macadamia Nut Company and planted the first commercial plantation in Honolulu in 1925.
The success of this early Hawaiian industry is recognised in the Chinese translation for the word macadamia nut which is “Hawaiian nut”, although we now know that all macadamias originally came from Australia.
It is believed the most widely known, original name for the macadamia nut was Kindal Kindal.
This name comes from the Kabi Kabi nation and likely other clans including Dauwa Clan.
The Kabi Kabi First Nation land includes the Sunshine Coast and from north of Brisbane to the Gregory and Isaac Rivers south of Bundaberg, including the volcanic Glasshouse Mountains and the Mary River valley which flows from the Conondale Ranges to the sea near Maryborough.
Botanist Ferdinand von Müller (1825-1896) was the first European to study the macadamia tree. He named it macadamia after politician John Macadam who almost certainly did not see or taste a nut!
In less than 100 years of production, macadamia nuts have become known and loved across the world.
The delicious Macadamia integrifolia originally grew exclusively in Queensland and from around 1880 was enthusiastically shared throughout Australia as the Queensland Nut .
What’s in a name?
Western-style botanical names have only been applied to macadamias for less than 200 years, but in that short time they have already been misapplied and changed in various ways! For example, many cosmetic products that include macadamia oil list Macadamia ternifolia as an ingredient, when they almost certainly mean Macadamia integrifolia.
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