Forget drop bears.
Giant cannon ball-sized pine cones, which can weigh as much as 10 kilograms, are falling from trees across Sydney.
John Siemon, curator and manager of the Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan, with a 2.7-kilogram seed from a Araucaria bidwillii. Photo: Wolter Peeters
While it sounds like the plot of a B-grade horror movie, it is actually just fruiting season for the dome-shaped Bunya pine tree.
So hefty are the cones that the trees have been fenced off and warning signs installed at the Australian Botanic Garden in Mount Annan and the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney.
John Siemon, the curator and manager at the Mount Annan garden, said he had never seen a crop of cones as big, but fortunately there had been no near misses with visitors.
A 6-kilogram Bunya pine cone recently fell at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan. Photo: Australian Botanic Gardens
"This is pretty rare," Mr Siemon said.
"There are other seeds that are large and you get a good clunk on the head from them, but these Bunya nuts are certainly at the top of the pecking order in terms of size, volume, and thethunkiness as they hit the ground."
The bunya pine, Araucaria bidwillii, is part of a family of plants that evolved during the Jurassic Period and mainly occur naturally in southeastern Queensland between Gympie and the Bunya Mountains.
The trees can produce hundreds of cones, each containing hundreds of seeds, and they usually drop them between December and March.
Mr Siemon said the fruits crash down through the tree branches and make a audible thunk sound as they hit the ground.
"It's like im Castaway where the coconuts are falling throughout the night and he is driven nuts, its that kind of noise that captures you," Mr Siemon said.
"People talk about coconut stories and they would hurt but I have heard park rangers talking about these completely denting cabs on vehicles. A lot of people have stories about bunya pines."
While the tree was first recorded by a non-Indigenous Australian in the 1830s when it was collected by Andrew Petrie, the seeds have provided a food source for Indigenous populations for generations.
Sydney scientist and native food expert Vic Cherikoff said Bunya seeds can be eaten raw or roasted and taste like "chestnut puree with a hint of pine nuts".
"They are actually low fat. They are more similar to a grain or seed rather than a true nut in the sense that they are quite different to cashew nuts and almonds," Mr Cherikoff said.
Some Aboriginal communities had a ritual, Mr Cherikoff said, where young men would climb the spiky trees and try to bring down new cones before they fell to the ground.
"It was a ceremonial plant extremely important to the local Aboriginal people. The trees with some groups were certainly passed on be between the generations so you would be looking after those trees and passing them on to your kids," Mr Cherikoff said.
For those brave enough to go foraging beneath them, Bunya pines are scattered across Sydney and can be found in Parramatta, Strathfield and Blacktown as well as the official botanic gardens.
You can find recipes using Bunya seeds as an ingredients here.