Rare Australian tree growing in Ocean Springs

Frank Gann shows off a pine cone from the Bunya Bunya tree growing in his backyard in Ocean Springs. The rare tree originates in Australia. Its huge pine cones weigh more than six pounds, and are the size of a human head.
Frank Gann shows off a pine cone from the Bunya Bunya tree growing in his backyard in Ocean Springs. The rare tree originates in Australia. Its huge pine cones weigh more than six pounds, and are the size of a human head.
6 pound 7 ounce cone
6 pound 7 ounce cone

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Frank Gann and his wife, Marlene, admire the Bunya Bunya pine tree in their yard. It's a very rare tree that originates in Australia.

What's even more rare is the size of the pine cones it releases. This tree's first was six and a half pounds, and the size of a human head.

Gann recalled when it fell, "It woke us up and woke our neighbors across the street up. And we weren't sure until the next morning and Marlene was looking out. Her jaw hit the ground and there it is in the pot. It busted her flower pot."

So how did the tree get here? Gann said the story goes back 15 years in Florida.

"We found some Seminole Indians selling a few things and they were selling one of the pine cones. We brought it home and it fell apart and turned into seeds, and that's the one that's left."

Just how weird is it to have a tree that dates back to the dinosaur age?

"It's very weird," said Dr. Gary Bachman, a horticulturist with the Mississippi State Extension Service. "If you look at a lot of our pines now and how big the cones are, I think this just goes back to showing some of history of this plant. That it developed in this time where everything was of a bigger scale."

More cones are on the way too, so Frank has to take action.

"We're going to put a metal roof here on the back porch to protect us and we're going to probably do some metal roofing on the side of the roof, possibly," Gann explained.  "But that tree is going to grow to 150 feet tall in 500 years, so I don't think my house will be here."

So when you have one of the rarest pine trees in the world in your backyard in Ocean Springs that drops a six and a half pound pine cone, let's just say it makes for a great conversation starter.

"Friends and acquaintances just kind of get a real kick out of it because it's all sharp and sticky and hurts them and it's so weird and grows the way it does," Gann said.  "Yeah, we get a kick out it."

The Ganns say once the pine cone breaks open, they plan on giving some of the seedlings to friends and family, so they can try their luck at growing their own Bunya Bunya.

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