Macadamia is a genus of four species of trees in the flowering plant family Proteaceae.[1][2] 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 /ˌmækəˈdmiə/ (or simply macadamia). Global production in 2015 was 160,000 tonnes (180,000 short tons).[3] Other names include Queensland nut, bush nut, maroochi nut, bauple nut and, in the USA, they are also erroneously known as Hawaii nut.[4] In Australian Aboriginal languages, the fruit is known by names such as bauple, gyndl or jindilli[4] (north of Great Dividing Range) and boombera (south of the Great Range). It was an important source of bushfood for the Aboriginal peoples who are the original inhabitants of the area.

Fresh macadamia nut with husk or pericarp cut in half
Macadamia nut in its shell and a roasted nut
Macadamia nut with sawn nutshell and special key used to pry open the nut

Macadamia nuts
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Proteales
Family: Proteaceae
Subfamily: Grevilleoideae
Tribe: Macadamieae
Subtribe: Macadamiinae
Genus: Macadamia
Type species
Macadamia integrifolia

The nut was first commercially produced on a wide scale in Hawaii, where Australian seeds were introduced in the 1880s, and for some time, they were the world's largest producer.[5][6] South Africa has been the world's largest producer of the macadamia since the 2010s.


The German-Australian botanist Ferdinand von Mueller gave the genus the name Macadamia in 1857 in honour of the Scottish-Australian chemist, medical teacher, and politician John Macadam, who was the honorary Secretary of the Philosophical Institute of Victoria beginning in 1857.[7]


Macadamia is an evergreen genus that grows 2–12 m (7–40 ft) tall.

The leaves are arranged in whorls of three to six, lanceolate to obovate or elliptic in shape, 60–300 mm (2+12–12 in) long and 30–130 mm (1+185+18 in) broad, with an entire or spiny-serrated margin. The flowers are produced in a long, slender, and simple raceme 50–300 mm (2–12 in) long, the individual flowers 10–15 mm (38916 in) long, white to pink or purple, with four tepals. The fruit is a hard, woody, globose follicle with a pointed apex containing one or two seeds. The nutshell ("coat") is particularly tough and requires around 2000 N to crack. The shell material is five times harder than hazelnut shells and has mechanical properties similar to aluminum. It has a Vickers hardness of 35.[8][9]

Modern history

Allan Cunningham was the first European to encounter the macadamia plant in Australia.[10]
1857 - 1858
German-Australian botanist Ferdinand von Mueller gave the genus the scientific name Macadamia. He named it after his friend John Macadam, a noted scientist and secretary of the Philosophical Institute of Australia.[11]
'Bauple nuts' were discovered in Bauple, Queensland; they are now known as macadamia nuts.
Walter Hill, superintendent of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens (Australia), observed a boy eating the kernel without ill effect, becoming the first nonindigenous person recorded to eat macadamia nuts.[12]
King Jacky, aboriginal elder of the Logan River clan, south of Brisbane, Queensland, was the first known macadamia entrepreneur in his tribe and he regularly collected and traded the macadamias with settlers.[13]
Tom Petrie planted macadamias at Yebri Creek (near Petrie) from nuts obtained from Aboriginals at Buderim.[14]
William H. Purvis introduced macadamia nuts to Hawaii as a windbreak for sugar cane.[15]
The first commercial orchard of macadamias was planted at Rous Mill, 12 km from Lismore, New South Wales, by Charles Staff.[16]
Joseph Maiden, an Australian botanist, wrote, "It is well worth extensive cultivation, for the nuts are always eagerly bought."[17]
The Hawaiian Agricultural Experiment Station encouraged the planting of macadamias on Hawaii's Kona District as a crop to supplement coffee production in the region.[18]
Tom Petrie begins trial macadamia plantations in Maryborough, Queensland, combining macadamias with pecans to shelter the trees.[19]
Ernest van Tassel formed the Hawaiian Macadamia Nut Co. in Hawaii.[20]
Tassel leased 75 acres (30 ha) on Round Top in Honolulu and began Nutridge, Hawaii's first macadamia seed farm.[21]
Tassel established a macadamia-processing factory on Puhukaina Street in Kakaako, Hawaii, selling the nuts as Van's Macadamia Nuts.
Winston Jones and J. H. Beaumont of the University of Hawaii's Agricultural Experiment Station reported the first successful grafting of macadamias, paving the way for mass production.[22]
A large plantation was established in Hawaii.[23][24]
Castle & Cooke added a new brand of macadamia nuts called "Royal Hawaiian," which was credited with popularizing the nuts in the U.S.
A fourth macadamia species, Macadamia jansenii, was described, being first brought to the attention of plant scientists in 1983 by Ray Jansen, a sugarcane farmer and amateur botanist from South Kolan in Central Queensland.[25]
Australia surpassed the United States as the major producer of macadamias.[18]
South Africa surpassed Australia as the largest producer of macadamias.[26][3]
The manner in which macadamia nuts were served on Korean Air Flight 86 from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City led to a "nut rage incident", which gave the nuts high visibility in South Korea and marked a sharp increase in consumption there.[27][28]


Nuts from M. jansenii and M. ternifolia contain cyanogenic glycosides.[29][30] The other two species are cultivated for the commercial production of macadamia nuts for human consumption.

Previously, more species with disjunct distributions were named as members of this genus Macadamia.[2] Genetics and morphological studies published in 2008 show they have separated from the genus Macadamia, correlating less closely than thought from earlier morphological studies.[2] The species previously named in the genus Macadamia may still be referred to overall by the descriptive, non-scientific name of macadamia.

Formerly included in the genus
Lasjia P.H.Weston & A.R.Mast, formerly Macadamia until 2008
  • Lasjia claudiensis (C.L.Gross & B.Hyland) P.H.Weston & A.R.Mast; synonym, base name: Macadamia claudiensis C.L.Gross & B.Hyland
  • Lasjia erecta (J.A.McDonald & R.Ismail) P.H.Weston & A.R.Mast; synonym, base name: Macadamia erecta J.A.McDonald & R.Ismail
    A tree endemic to the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. First described by science in 1995.[31]
  • Lasjia grandis (C.L.Gross & B.Hyland) P.H.Weston & A.R.Mast; synonym, base name: Macadamia grandis C.L.Gross & B.Hyland
  • Lasjia hildebrandii (Steenis) P.H.Weston & A.R.Mast; synonym, base name: Macadamia hildebrandii Steenis
    Another species endemic to Sulawesi.[32][33]
  • Lasjia whelanii (F.M.Bailey) P.H.Weston & A.R.Mast; synonyms: base name: Helicia whelanii F.M.Bailey, Macadamia whelanii (F.M.Bailey) F.M.Bailey
Catalepidia P.H.Weston, formerly Macadamia until 1995
  • Catalepidia heyana (F.M.Bailey) P.H.Weston; synonyms: base name: Helicia heyana F.M.Bailey , Macadamia heyana (F.M.Bailey) Sleumer
Virotia L.A.S.Johnson & B.G.Briggs, formerly Macadamia until the first species renaming began in 1975 and comprehensive in 2008
  • Virotia angustifolia (Virot) P.H.Weston & A.R.Mast; synonym, base name: Macadamia angustifolia Virot
  • Virotia francii (Guillaumin) P.H.Weston & A.R.Mast; synonym, base name: Roupala francii Guillaumin
  • Virotia leptophylla (Guillaumin) L.A.S.Johnson & B.G.Briggs (1975 type species); synonym, base name: Kermadecia leptophylla Guillaumin
  • Virotia neurophylla (Guillaumin) P.H.Weston & A.R.Mast; synonyms: base name: Kermadecia neurophylla Guillaumin, Macadamia neurophylla (Guillaumin) Virot
  • Virotia rousselii (Vieill.) P.H.Weston & A.R.Mast; synonym, base name: Roupala rousselii Vieill
  • Virotia vieillardi (Brongn. & Gris) P.H.Weston & A.R.Mast; synonym, base name: Roupala vieillardii Brongn. & Gris


Macadamia integrifolia flowers

The macadamia tree is usually propagated by grafting and does not begin to produce commercial quantities of seeds until it is 7–10 years old, but once established, it may continue bearing for over 100 years. Macadamias prefer fertile, well-drained soils, a rainfall of 1,000–2,000 mm (40–80 in), and temperatures not falling below 10 °C (50 °F) (although once established, they can withstand light frosts), with an optimum temperature of 25 °C (80 °F). The roots are shallow, and trees can be blown down in storms; like most Proteaceae, they are also susceptible to Phytophthora root disease. As of 2019, the macadamia nut is the most expensive nut in the world, which is attributed to the slow harvesting process.[34]

Macadamia 'Beaumont' in new growth



A Macadamia integrifolia / M. tetraphylla hybrid commercial variety is widely planted in Australia and New Zealand; Dr. J. H. Beaumont discovered it. It is high in oil but is not sweet. New leaves are reddish, and flowers are bright pink, borne on long racemes. It is one of the quickest varieties to come into bearing once planted in the garden, usually carrying a useful crop by the fourth year and improving from then on. It crops prodigiously when well pollinated. The impressive, grape-like clusters are sometimes so heavy they break the branchlets to which they are attached. Commercial orchards have reached 18 kg (40 lb) per tree by eight years old. On the downside, the macadamias do not drop from the tree when ripe, and the leaves are a bit prickly when one reaches into the tree's interior during harvest. Its shell is easier to open than that of most commercial varieties.

Macadamia 'Maroochy' new growth


A pure M. tetraphylla variety from Australia, this strain is cultivated for its productive crop yield, flavor, and suitability for pollinating 'Beaumont.'

Nelmac II

A South African M. integrifolia / M. tetraphylla hybrid cultivar, it has a sweet seed, which means it has to be cooked carefully so that the sugars do not caramelise. The sweet seed is usually not fully processed, as it generally does not taste as good, but many people enjoy eating it uncooked. It has an open micropyle (hole in the shell), which may let in fungal spores. The crack-out percentage (ratio of nut meat to the whole nut by weight) is high. Ten-year-old trees average 22 kg (50 lb) per tree. It is a popular variety because of its pollination of 'Beaumont,' and the yields are almost comparable.


A M. integrifolia / M. tetraphylla hybrid, this is a rather spreading tree. On the plus side, it is high yielding commercially; 17 kg (37 lb) from a 9-year-old tree has been recorded, and the nuts drop to the ground. However, they are thick-shelled, with not much flavor.

Macadamia nuts, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy3,080 kJ (740 kcal)
13.8 g
Sugars4.57 g
Dietary fiber8.6 g
75.8 g
Saturated12 g
Monounsaturated59 g
Polyunsaturated1.5 g
7.9 g
Thiamine (B1)
1.195 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.162 mg
Niacin (B3)
2.473 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.76 mg
Vitamin B6
0.275 mg
Folate (B9)
11 μg
Vitamin C
1.2 mg
Vitamin E
0.54 mg
85 mg
3.69 mg
130 mg
4.1 mg
188 mg
368 mg
1.30 mg
Other constituentsQuantity
Water1.4 g

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.


In 2018, South Africa was estimated as the leading producer of macadamia nuts, with 54,000 tonnes out of global production of 211,000 tonnes.[35] Macadamia is commercially produced in many countries of Southeast Asia, South America, Australia, and North America having Mediterranean, temperate or tropical climates.[35]


The first commercial orchard of macadamia trees was planted in the early 1880s by Rous Mill, 12 km (7.5 mi) southeast of Lismore, New South Wales, consisting of M. tetraphylla.[36] Besides the development of a small boutique industry in Australia during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, macadamia was extensively planted as a commercial crop in Hawaii from the 1920s onward. Macadamia seeds were first imported into Hawaii in 1882 by William H. Purvis, who planted seeds that year at Kapulena.[37] The Hawaiian-produced macadamia established the well-known seed internationally, and in 2017, Hawaii produced over 22,000 tonnes.[38]

In 2019, researchers collected samples from hundreds of trees in Queensland and compared their genetic profiles to samples from Hawaiian orchards. They determined that essentially all the Hawaiian trees must have descended from a small population of Australian trees from Gympie, possibly just a single tree.[39] This lack of genetic diversity in the commercial crop puts it at risk of succumbing to pathogens (as has happened in the past to banana cultivars). Growers may seek to diversify the cultivated population by hybridizing with wild specimens.


Raw macadamia nuts are 1% water, 14% carbohydrates, 76% fat, and 8% protein (table). A 100-gram reference amount of macadamia nuts provides 740 kilocalories and are a rich source (20% or more of the Daily Value (DV)) of numerous essential nutrients, including thiamine (104% DV), vitamin B6 (21% DV), other B vitamins, manganese (195% DV), iron (28% DV), magnesium (37% DV) and phosphorus (27% DV) (table).

Compared with other common edible nuts, such as almonds and cashews, macadamias are high in total fat and relatively low in protein. They have a high amount of monounsaturated fats (59% of total content) and contain, as 17% of total fat, the monounsaturated fat, omega-7 palmitoleic acid.[40]

Toxicity in dogs

Macadamias are toxic to dogs. Ingestion may result in macadamia toxicity marked by weakness and hind limb paralysis with the inability to stand, occurring within 12 hours of ingestion.[41] It is not known what makes macadamia nuts toxic, but its effects have only been reported in dogs.[42] Depending on the quantity ingested and the size of the dog, symptoms may also include muscle tremors, joint pain, and severe abdominal pain. In high doses of toxin, opiate medication may be required for symptom relief until the toxic effects diminish, with full recovery usually within 24 to 48 hours.[41]

Other uses

The trees are also grown as ornamental plants in subtropical regions for their glossy foliage and attractive flowers. The flowers produce a well-regarded honey. The wood is used decoratively for small items.[43] Macadamia species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including Batrachedra arenosella.

Macadamia seeds are often fed to hyacinth macaws in captivity. These large parrots are one of the few animals, aside from humans, capable of cracking the shell and removing the seed.[44]

See also

  • Macadamia oil


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