Amoebaʻs Lorica: A Nut Case

Once upon an airline, not so very long ago, Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba and Dame Amoeba were seated and waiting for takeoff from the frozen wastes (so claimed DA) of the Pacific Northwest back to their soon-to-be former home in Hawai‘i Nei. And as they were waiting, the airline of the frozen wastes presented them with a beverage and a nibble. A quintessentially “welcome to Hawai‘i” nibble.


Mac nuts.

To give them their full name, macadamia nuts.

Presented to us by a middle-aged lady flight attendant with a bit of a domineering attitude.

This presentation immediately caused YFNA, who is, as you know by now, dear reader, a Contrarian, Problems. And YFNA has had to tell you about his Problems for, like, the last seventeen years. Why stop now?

Starting with the name.

Macadamia “nuts” (more on that later) come from a tree that has, for its formal scientific name, Macadamia integrifolia. The first part of the name, the genus, was coined in the 19th century by the German-born Australian botanist Ferdinand von Müller, and it honors a fellow Australian and a then-youthful friend of his, John Macadam. Now, since the common name of the tree and the scientific name are one and the same, and this name commemorates a person whose surname is commonly pronounced MacADAM, it should follow that the plant’s name is pronounced MacADAMia. Yes?

Of course not. It’s pronounced Mac-a-DAME-ia.

Once again demonstrating, yea insisting on, the superiority of Woman over mere expendable males. Next thing we know, Adam will be edited out of the Genesis story. Or they’ll make him eat the apple and cop the blame for it. And then spend the rest of eternity trying to sell bicycles to fishes.

Macadamia integrifolia and its relatives belong to a plant family called the Proteaceae. Itʻs yet another example of creature names that make no sense. After all, if there is a Proteaceae, then, for balance and proportion, there should be a Conteaceae, and probably also an Amateurteaceae. Hm? Neither exists. Proteaceae stands, prominently and unaccountably, alone. Just as, for example, the family Bignoniaceae stands alone and disconsolate, because no one has described the obvious name needed for balance: Littleknowniaceae.

Thereʻs another problem with this family Proteaceae. Whoʻs heard of it? Itʻs not like you can make tea from any of the plants in the family. Even if the name claims that the plants are in favor of it. Itʻs too late, another plant family has already cornered the market. The Theaceae. Yes, of course they misspelled it. But donʻt take that as an opportunity, because the family Don wonʻt be happy if you try to horn in on his turf, however itʻs spelled, and he might take out a contract on you.

There are some mighty families in the plant world, and they got their pride. Consider, for example, the grass family, the Poaceae. Nothing poʻ about the produce that this family brings to the table, in quality or quantity. Wheat, rice, barley, rye, oats, maize, sugar, hay, lawns, football fields and the starlets that gaze on their tight ends. And that’s even after smoking grass got its own turf. The rose family is the apple in the young girlʻs eye, speaking of starlets. And the plum, and the pear, and the peach, and the apricot … The squash family is constantly making a racket. And then there are tomatoes and potatoes. Turnips and cabbages. Peas and beans. Parsnips and carrots. All to market, to market, by the truck, train, and planeload, from families that are widespread and powerful.

What has the Proteaceae got? One measly little tree and its nuts. Which aren’t even really nuts, they’re drupes. Which is why the Proteaceae skulk around in the back corners of the farmer’s market, all drupy. To make matters worse, the seed-bearing drupe from Macadamia trees has a shell that is as stiff and hard as aluminum, which means you can’t get anything to eat without resorting to blacksmith’s tools, and creating mostly macadamia nut seed flour in the process, which nobody’s buying.

“Yeah, chill, Vito. We can afford to let the Hawaiians with their cute little Hawaiian tree have their specialty shop out in the middle of nowhere. They make any moves, they make it worth our while, they find out what “muscle” means. But for now, we leave them alone and show them how magnanimous we can be. We can do without the bad press that the grass family got over there last August, when they tried to take over. Bunglers!”

So, to what island(s) of Hawai‘i Nei are the cute little Hawaiian trees with their cute little “welcome to Hawai‘i” macadamia nuts seeds native? Kaua‘i? O‘ahu? Maui? Hawai‘i Island? French Frigate Shoals?


“Say what? Macadamia trees are from Australia? Where all the wildlife is out to kill you?!?”

This surprises you how? Where else would a tree learn to put its seeds in a case that it takes dynamite to open? Besides. Pineapples are from Brazil. Sugar cane, India and Indonesia. Papayas, Mexico. Why should macadamias be any different from any other cash crop in Hawai‘i? In fact, macadamias got their start when sugar cane planters realized that their crop was no longer profitable, and converted those lands that they couldn’t turn into luxury hotels, or firestarter districts, into macadamia groves.

“Right. And now, Hawai‘i is the place to go for mac nuts?”

South Africa.

“We’ve been cut out again?? Isn’t there anything special about things in Hawai‘i that we can sell to the tourists any more?”

There’s always the centipedes.


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2 Responses to Amoebaʻs Lorica: A Nut Case

  1. Dame Amoeba says:

    But I thought the centipedes were from Vietnam?

    • Amoeba says:

      They are distributed throughout tropical Asia and the Pacific Islands. No one seems to know for sure whether they were in Hawaii before humans arrived.

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