Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Native Australian Useful Plants. NSW.

I will be featuring useful native plants that grow in my area of New England NSW. Most of the information on Australian edible plants is based on the Northern Territory, & therefore is of no use to those of us in colder areas.
The Xanthorrhoea can be found though in all parts of Australia in various forms, so it is a good plant to take note of. I have heaps of these growing in my forest here near Armidale NSW.

The grass tree/black boy/yacca/Kangaroo tail. NOTE: A very similar plant known as yucca grows in America.

A traditional Aboriginal favourite

Grass trees were a 'staple' plant for the aborigines, providing food, drink, fibre and materials for making implements and weapons.
Food and drink

As a food source, the white, tender sections of leaf bases, the growing points of stem and succulent roots were all eaten regularly. The removal of the growing point was rare as it destroyed the plant altogether. The seeds were collected and ground into a flour to provide dough for cooking a type of damper, within the ashes of a wattle wood fire.
They frequently dug out edible grubs found at the base of the trunk. The grub's presence could be detected by the observing the dead leaves in the centre of the grass tree crown.

Small sweet pockets of honey could also be extracted from the carpenter bee's cellular nests, which were often bored in the soft pith of the flower stalk.
To wash this down, the nectar from the flower could be extracted by soaking it in water filled bark troughs, to produce a thick sweet drink. A citric flavoured alcoholic brew could be made from fermenting the nectar over 3 to 5 days. An extra tang was added to the brew by crushing a few 'formic' ants into the beverage.

Although not specifically a plant for fibre it was very useful in crafting of aboriginal tools. The light straight flower stalk served as a butt-piece for spears. A tip section of tea tree would then be attached to the end of the spear and hardened in the fire before used for hunting.
Mainland Aboriginals used pieces of very dry flower stalk for making fire with a drilling stick.
The leaves produce a hard waterproof resin, which could be collected from the base of the trunk. This resin melts when wanned, but sets hard when cold. It had a number of uses including;
  • Forming glue by mixing it with charcoal, beeswax or fine sand and dust.
  • Gluing the cement stone heads to wooden handles and spears to shafts and tips.
  • Waterproofing bark canoes and water carrying vessels.
The versatility of this resin in the every day lives of the aborigines, made it a valuable trading item and was traded amongst tribes for other important collectables.


Karl said...

Nice write up there Keith...



Le Loup said...

Thank you Karl.