Gundabooka Aboriginal Plants Trail
The following plants, growing along the Aboriginal plants trail, have been reported as having been used, or probably used, by Aboriginal peoples.
Eucalyptus gummifera "Bloodwood": This eucalypt produces masses of nectar-rich white flowers which were either sucked or soaked in water to produce a sweet drink. The European common name refers to the copious gum which extrudes from wounds to the bark. This gum was used as an adhesive in tool or weapon making and as a preservative of the plant fibre used in fishing lines.
Lomandra longifolia "Mat rush": The strap-like leaves, after softening by passing them through hot ashes, were used to weave dilly bags, mats, etc. The white leaf bases were also eaten.
Dianella revoluta: The flesh of the bright blue berries is pleasant to the taste and the seed, although gritty, is tasteless. The berries were eaten raw while the roots were pounded and roasted before being eaten. The leaf fibre was apparently used to make string for waistbands, nets, dilly bags, etc.
Macrozamia communis "Burrawang": The large seeds contained in the large cones produced by the female plants of this and other cycads are highly poisonous. However, aboriginal people developed methods for leaching out the toxins before the kernels were roasted to make a coarse bread. These seeds should not be eaten under any circumstances.
Xanthorrhoea macronema "Grass tree": The flowers of these plants are rich in nectar and they were either sucked or used to sweeten water. The seeds were crushed to make flour while the white leaf bases were eaten. This particular species has thin flower stalks but others have light, straight spear-like stalks up to 25mm in diameter and two to three metres long. They were used as spear shafts in some areas and also provided tinder for fire lighting. The large trunked species produce a valuable resin which often exudes from the trunk in large globules after fires. This was used by aboriginal people as an adhesive in tool and weapon making.
Persoonia linearis and Persoonia levis "Geebung": These small trees produce seeds with a thin fleshy outer covering which is palatable when completely ripe.
Dodonaea triqueta "Hop bush": Apparently the leaves of some species were chewed to relieve toothache or rubbed on as a treatment for stings such as stingray's.
Exocarpus cupressiformis "Native cherry": This small parasitic tree produces small red edible, but astringent fruits.
Cupaniopsis anacardioides "Tuckeroo": This small tree produces orange coloured fruit which were apparently eaten.
Alphitonia excelsa "Red ash or Soap tree": The leaves and bark of this tree contain substantial quantities of saporin which causes frothing when mixed with water. It was used by aborigines to asphyxiate fish by crushing the leaves and bark in a waterhole. An infusion of the bark was also used as a gargle for toothache or rubbed on as a linament.
Banksia serrata "Saw banksia": Nectar was either sucked from the flowers or these were soaked in water to make a sweet drink.
Pteridium esculentum "Bracken fern": The fronds of many ferns are edible if used when they have not unfurled, ie while the stalk is still curled at the apex. The underground rhizomes were also eaten after being crushed and cooked.
Trachymene incisa "Wild parsnip": This small plant has a swollen tap root like a small parsnip and is similar in flavour. It can be eaten either raw or cooked.
Dioscorea transversa "Yam": Although not large, this widespread yam was a commonly used vegetable. Several larger species occur in the tropics.
Many palms and rainforest plants provided food, medicines and other resources for the aboriginal people. The growing tip of most Australian palms is edible and provided a nutritious food. Removal of this growth bud killed the palm so it is likely that juvenile and small palms were preferred because of their ease of collection. Some of the palms known to have been used by the Aborigines and growing in the Palm Garden include: Archontophoenix cunninghamiana (Bangalow Palm), Livistona australis, Linospadix monostachyus, Calamus sp.The fleshy fruits of many rainforest trees are also edible, and the following trees which have been planted in the Rainforest Area are known to have been used by the Aboriginal people: Alocasia macrorrhiza, Austromyrtus dulcis, Citriobatus pauciflorus, Diploglottis australis, Ehretia acuminata, Elaeocarpus grandis, Syzygium species, Eupomatia laurina, Planchonella australis.
Other plants used by the local Aborigines includes: Alpinia caerulea (Native ginger), Crinum pedunculata (a large, white flowered lily), Cyathea species (tree ferns), Dendrobium speciosum (Rock Lily) and many species of terrestrial orchids, including Caladenia and Pterostylis species, Doryanthes excelsa (Gymea Lily), Ficus coronata (Sandpaper Fig), and Gahnia clarkei (Saw sedge).