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Shrubs up to about 1m in height
Acacia nodiflora ferox
Shrubs between 1m and 3m
Acacia loxophylla nervosa
Acacia uncinata humilis
Shrubs between 3m and 5m
Shrubs between 3m and 5m
Large Shrubs and Trees over 5m
Acacia leucoclada leucoclada
Acacias with ripe seed in South East Queensland - November 1999
Acacia loxophylla nervosa
Acacias flowering in South East Queensland November 1999
Flowering patterns of Australian acacia spp. (Excel - .xlsx)
From: Traditional Aboriginal Medicines, Aboriginal Communities of the Northern Territory
Murlurpa in Warlpiri
Pirrpung in Ngarinyman
Mulurrmi in Djingulu,Mudburra and Gurindji
Shrub to 5m, spreading; foliage viscid; bark red-brown shedding in narrow curly strips. Stipules triangular, 1-2mm long. Phyllodes narrow-oblanceolate to linear, 1.5-Scm x 1.5-4mm, with 2-4 longitudinal nerves, frequently with an abrupt, sharp-booked terminal point. Spikes axillary, dense, yellow. 1-3.5cm long; peduncles 1-35cm long. Legume narrow-oblong, dehiscent, to 9.5cm x 7-12mm, obliquely reticulate, with thick and narrow margins; seeds oblique, black, 1-4 1mm; funicle yellow.
Habitat:Commonly low shrub-land and woodlands on red sand
Known Distribution: Central Northern, Barkly Tablelands, Victoria River and Darwin & Gulf Regions
Parts of Plant Used
Leaves and branchlets
Indications: Childbirth, colds and flu, painful joints and muscles
Preparations and Use:
Wash: A decoction is prepared from a large handful of young leaves and twigs. To relieve the symptoms of colds and flu, the aromatic liquid is applied as a wash as often as desired.
Application: New seasons growth of leaves and branchlets are heated on embers or bot stones until soft and scorching. When held firmly over painful areas, eg. the head or small of the back, they provide relief from the aches of colds and flu. Small branches, when heated can be rubbed over affected joints and muscles.
Smoke Therapy: Hot coals are placed in a pit about 30cm long and 15cm deep. Crushed termite or ant bill, of the kind found at the base of Triodia pungens (Spinifex grass), is placed over the coals and well-covered with small branches bearing young leaves. Sometimes pieces of the hill are layered with leaves in the fire-pit. Quantities of smoke and vapour are given off without flame. The ant or termite mound used is called Kiriniynma in the Mudburra language. Newborn and young babies are held over the smoke for a few minutes. Soon after delivery, mothers sit or lie over the pit in the smoke. Carried out daily for about a week, this treatment is beneficial to mother and child; it helps stop bleeding and shrivels the baby's umbilical cord).
CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products
A.P.N House; C.E Harwood (Eds)
Australia's unique and diverse woody flora has become socially, economically and environmentally important in many other countries. The seed of some Acacia species showing promise in planting programs in semi-arid areas has been a part of the traditional diet of Australia's Aboriginal people. The green seed pods of some species can be eaten raw or alternatively the pods can be cooked in ashes. The dry seed may be ground to flour, mixed with water and eaten as a paste or baked to form a cake.
This book reports on proceedings of a workshop held at Glen Helen, Northern Territory, Australia, in 1991. The workshop was attended by participants with diverse cultural, scientific and technical background.
This book looks at the exciting possibility of building upon the traditional knowledge of Aboriginal Australians, using modern scientific methods of selection and improvement to improve seed yields and nutritional properties of shrubs, for the benefit of people in the world's dry areas.
Cost - $30.00. Order from:
150 Oxford Street
P O Box 1139
Collingwood VIC 3066
Telephone: +61 3 9662 7500
Facsimile: + 61 3 9662 7555
Quality Australian Produce - Wholesaler of Australian Foods
Quandongs and Quandong pulp
Value added products: -
Quandong Chili Sauce
Bush Tomato Relish
Wattleseed & Native Pepper Mustard
Macadamia Satay Sauce
Game meats and products
Ph: 08 9325 6600
Fax: 08 9325 6604
Acacia in Australia: Ethnobotany and Potential Food Crop
An overview of the indigenous use of wattleseed and its potential as a bushfood product.
Acacia is the second largest genus in Australia comprising more than 700 species (Harden 1991; Morrison and Davies 1991) and occurs in almost all habitat types. Species range in size from small shrubs to large trees and are ecologically important as `pioneer' species where they rapidly establish cover following major natural disturbances such as fire (Christensen et al. 1981). Acacia species are commonly known simply as acacias or as wattles and Acacia pycnantha has been adopted as the Australian national floral emblem.
The Ethnobotany of Acacias in Australia
Archaeological evidence demonstrates the presence of Aboriginal people in Australia for at least 50 000 years (Flood 1990) and during this time there has been considerable change in the spatial distribution of vegetation. This has resulted, not only from a changing climate, but also as a consequence of megaherbivore extinction and Aboriginal burning practices (Flannery 1994). This unnatural, increased fire frequency has favoured those species able to cope with such a regime. The proportions of grasses, "pioneer" species, annuals and pyrophilic species have increased compared with fire sensitive taxa (Flannery 1994). Such fire adaptive plants usually produce large quantities of seed and increasing the population size of those plants utilized for their seed will naturally increase the food supply. Aborigines deliberately burnt areas to achieve this aim (Flannery 1994; Latz 1995).
Seeds form a staple food among many indigenous peoples and plants native to Australia are no exception. Of all the plant foods in central Australia, seeds are by far the most important. Seeds are usually high in proteins, carbohydrates and fats and are easily collected, providing a high energy food for the expenditure of relatively small amounts of energy (Latz 1995). Although Australian plants generally produce small seeds they are produced in large quantities. In arid Australia, seed supply is widely available, somewhat predictable and dependable (Flood 1990). The northern half of the Northern Territory possesses some 40 species of Acacia and although 19 species are useful to Aboriginal people, only one species, A. difficilis has seed that is eaten (Brock 1988). There are other more readily available carbohydrate sources such as yams that require less preparation.
Of the sixty or so species of Acacia in central Australia, Latz (1995) states that some 50% were, or still are, eaten by Aboriginal people and it is not only the seed which is consumed. Several species exude an edible sugary gum from wounds in the stem or branches which supplies a source of energy. Others are fed upon by insects which themselves secrete an edible substance while species such as A. kempeana are the host for various edible grubs (Kalotas and Goddard 1985) often referred to by non-Aboriginal people as witchetty grubs.
Not all wattleseed was used for food. Many coastal and some arid species contain toxic compounds. A. longifolia is one of the few species recorded as having been eaten in coastal eastern Australia (Kohen 1992), similarly, Acacia georginae seed reportedly contains sodium fluoroacetate the major constituent of 1080, a widely used rodenticide (P. Latz pers. comm.).
A. ligulata, umbrella bush, is a widespread and common semi-arid species. A. Kalotas (pers. comm. 1994) noted that there are mixed reports of the consumption of this seed. Anecdotal evidence suggests it was a species only eaten when no other seed was available as it caused hair loss, the hair regrowing sometime later (Kalotas 1985). It may be that the alopecia (hair loss) resulted from a combination of factors rather than the action of A. ligulata seed alone -malnourishment may have played a role in the loss of hair. Brand and Maggiore (1991) state that testing for the presence of toxic compounds is mandatory if these plants are to be developed as new food products.
Many legume seeds contain a variety of toxic compounds that are usually denatured by the application of heat. These compounds, if untreated, can disrupt intestinal absorption of nutrients and produce growth retardation (Brand and Maggiore 1991).
The Bushfood Industry and Crop Potential
Wattleseed is in high demand for use as a ground product in pastries and breads and also as a flavouring in desserts, especially ice-cream. It is also used to produce a high quality coffee-like beverage. Wattleseed is one bushfood product collected almost exclusively by Aboriginal people from wild populations throughout its natural range. The species most commonly collected is Acacia victoriae as it is generally regarded as having a superior flavour. A. victoriae is widespread over much of central Australia and fruits during December and January. Yield is unpredictable and is influenced by climatic conditions and, as such, is extremely variable. Wattleseed is not yet grown on a commercial scale and the demand far exceeds the supply. Despite this, small quantities of wattleseed are exported to the US, Canada, UK, France, Japan and SE Asia.
Acacia seeds are highly nutritious and contain 26% protein, 26% available carbohydrate, 32% fibre and 9% fat (Brand and Maggiore 1992). The fat content is higher than most legumes with the aril providing the bulk of fatty acids present. These fatty acids are largely unsaturated which is a distinct health advantage although it presents storage problems as such fats readily oxidise (Brand and Maggiore 1992). The mean total carbohydrate content of 55.8 + 13.7% is lower than that of lentils, but higher than that of soybeans while the mean fibre content of 32.3 + 14.3% is higher than that of other legumes such as lentils with a level of 11.7% (Brand and Maggiore 1992). The energy content is high in all species tested, averaging 1480+270 kJ per 100g. Wattle seeds are low glycaemic index foods. The starch is digested and absorbed very slowly, producing a small, but sustained rise in blood glucose and so delaying the onset of exhaustion in prolonged exercise (Brand and Maggiore 1992).
A. murrayana is being studied as it has a very different growth habit to A. victoriae. Unlike A. victoriae, it is a spineless species which is a distinct advantage when harvesting seed by hand. In addition, it has potential for soil stabilization and land rehabilitation projects as it is a species capable of regeneration from its roots. This means it can regenerate vegetatively following fire or clearing. The possibility also exists that if crop yields fall due to senescence, the plants could be cut back to ground level without disturbing the soil and the subsequent regrowth should retain the growth and yield characteristics for which it was originally selected.
Work thus far has been aimed primarily at establishing field trials to examine the variation within these plants and the plants' responses to irrigation and fertilisers. Experiments to determine how the plants respond to nitrogen and potassium fertilization and rhizobial innoculation are also in progress.
There are two field trials of A. murrayana planted on campus with another to be located at Umuwa in the Musgrave Ranges of northern South Australia. A visit was made to Umuwa in April 1995 to select a site for planting in collaboration with the Pitjantjatjara community.
Studies concerning floral and fruit development and also pollination are planned. Genetic analysis will be performed as part of the examination of variation within these species.
Acacia seed in Australia was, and in some areas still is, used as a food source by Aboriginal people. It is now popular with the emergence of the bush foods industry as a new product with a variety of culinary applications. Wild populations are harvested for their seed, but the plants have potential as a commercial crop. It is hoped that the production of seed for food use is adopted by Aboriginal communities. Roasted Acacia seeds offer an exciting new flavour for pastries and icecreams and a caffeine free beverage.
The Rural Industries Research and Development Corp (RIRDC) commissioned a $35,000 research project entitled `Improving Access to Bushfood Production and Marketing Information'. The report is now out and RIRDC has acted on it. What have we got for our money? The editor comments - and RIRDC responds. All bold and italics mine.
I feel that the process and end-result of the this important piece of research has been sadly lacking in serious consultation, considered conclusions and constructive implementation.
The aim of the research was to design a suitable database strategy to overcome the information failure within the industry.
The report suggests that the best approach is not a central database but a system of several small, specialist databases under (or linked to) a top level internet site. You can't argue with this - the value of the `web' is its ability to link sites of information. This in itself gives users a `base of data'.
The report also suggests that regional groups will be responsible for developing and maintaining the individual, specialist databases and here's where I began to doubt Atech's knowledge of the industry:
Nowhere does the report offer solutions for supporting regional groups in developing these specialist sites.
The report states `the larger industry players were not interested (in a database) (P24.). This is contradicted later in the report - `The representatives consulted suggested that all organisations and individuals with an interest in bushfoods would benefit from a bushfood industry database.' (Page 27)
The conclusion that the industry needs an `information management process rather than a database' is contradicted by the conclusion that a `specialist bushfood industry database would provide the primary tools for the specialist information management process...' (Page 29).
I seriously question the statement that `the larger industry players have already established the information links.' (Page 31) The larger players undoubtedly have their personal and electronic information networks but would be the first to concede that they lack access to the wider industry. This fact is borne out by the number of requests the magazine receives from some of these `larger players' for (most especially produce availability) information.
And what about the smaller players?
The report makes no provision for those groups and individuals who are not on the net - is this some new form of hi-technism? I believe that the methods of dissemination of information in all media is a vital issue which has won scant attention in this report, to its detriment.
A disappointing report and one which did not measure up to its promise. Apart from my disagreement with some of its basic premises and many of its (unquantified) findings, it gives no `way forward'.
Although `key findings' and `an analysis of the industry response' are given, they are not backed up with numerical results from the survey - I believe the numbers are of paramount importance and am amazed that they are missing.
Although I am listed as having been involved with their research, I did not see the questionnaire. My input was limited to a brief verbal interview in which the interviewer acknowledged he did not know quite which questions to ask.
The magazine received no response from RIRDC to this critique but was told that RIRDC's favoured implementation of the findings was to produce a bushfoods web site in-house and let it hang off their New Plant Products Pages. It appeared that, as the site would be done by RIRDC staff, it would cost very little or nothing.
That's good - but then I read the concept for this site:
`...a website with a comprehensive collection of relevant links'.
At the end of the day, we will have spent $35,000+ and what we'll get is a web site with links to existing web sites?
Why not just got to Samantha Lane's site -
copy and paste it into the RIRDC site? It would save a lot of time.
However, this would still not give the industry any new information and I believe this is where both the report and RIRDC's response falls down.
I believe that we should by determining what information is currently easily available, what information the regional groups can or wish to contribute to a site and then look at ways in which information gaps can be filled and the regional groups assisted in building their specialist sites.
A great opportunity to supply this information-poor industry with tools has been lost - and expensively lost at that.
My response to your critique of the Atech Study is as follows:
1. The Atech report concluded that:
* A single database was not viable, because of lack of general support and little need for more information of a general nature.
* An internet based set of smaller specialist data bases would be viable because of wide spread support within grower/harvesters/processor; and low maintenance costs, with each data base being managed by its appropriate group (or association).
* These smaller, specialist data bases can nevertheless be linked together under a top-level internet site, to provide an overall public face for the Australian bushfood industry. This site, potentially called the "Australian Bushfood industry Database", could provide an overall structure but at the same time allow a level of individuality for the different specialist databases.
* The top-level internet site, with links to the smaller, specialist databases, could be most effectively provided (and funded) by government.
* The smaller, specialist databases would be effectively provided (and funded) by the different specialist groups (or associations) that have information relevant to some aspect of the bushfood industry, and which wish to link to the top-level internet site.
* Groups (or associations) in the bush food industry that are not yet ready to have such an internet presence can link to the top-level internet site at a later date.
Copies of the Atech report can be obtained from RIRDC by phoning June Murphy on
02 6272 4029.
2. The industry panel that advises RIRDC on bushfood R&D has accepted the findings of the Atech report.
3. The industry panel has endorsed the implementation of a top-level internet site using RIRDC facilities, probably at no cost to the New Plant Products Sub-program that supports bushfood research.
4. Your critique of the Atech report has been considered by the industry panel but has not led them to change their position. The panel believes that the implementation of the proposed a top-level website will be a useful step forward and will not preclud further developments at later date.
Yours sincerely,Dr David Evans
New Plant Products