Issue 17, Autumn 2001
PO Box 17
WODEN ACT 2606
Tel 02 6121 4000
A possible source for database information on education and training.
Australian Bushfoods and Products Cooperative Ltd
Tel 02 6629 1090
Australasian Ethnobotanical Foundation
Gareth Wise, Director
PO Box 11
West Ryde NSW 2114
Tel 02 9804 7437
Australian National Uni
Dr. Mike Slee
Canberra ACT 2601
Tel 02 6249 2224
Involved in a number of research projects relevant to the native foods industry.
Bureau of Resource Sciences
Tel 02 6272 5273
Helen is currently compiling a report on Aboriginal involvement in the native foods industry funded by ATSIC.
Centre for Aboriginal Studies
The institution has been involved in publications such as 'Tables of Composition of Australian Aboriginal Foods'
Centre for New Industries Development
Agriculture Western Australia
3 Baron-Hay Court
South Perth WA 6151
Tel 08 9368 3682
Fax 08 9368 3791
Its aim is to develop industries which can contribute to the diversity and sustainability of the agricultural sector in WA.
Central Lands Council (CLC)
PO Box 3321
Alice Springs NT 0871 or
75 Hartley Street
Alice Springs NT 0870
Tel 08 8952 9413
Fax 08 8952 9429
Collating information on potential of commercial production of plants used by Central Australian Aboriginals.
Coen Regional Aboriginal Corporation
Tel 07 7060 1192
Fax 07 7060 1179
Have a small range of North Queensland open forest aromatic spices and oils unique to the region.
Forestry and Forest Products
QVT Canberra ACT 2601
Tel 02 6281 8211
Canberra ACT or
Merbein Laboratory: Steve Sykes
Private Mail Bag
Merbein VIC 3505 or
Wildlife and Ecology
PO Box 84
Lyneham ACT 2602
Extensive research on Quandongs, Acacia species and Citrus Cultivars
(contact Steve Sykes, Mildura CSIRO or ANPI).
Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) WA
50 Haymen Road
Como WA 6152
Currently involved in the commercialisation of native resources in WA and the publication of a series of 'Bush Books'.
Department of Primary Industries (DPI) QLD
Tel 07 3239 3111
Involved in a number of native food research.
Essential Oil Producers of Australia
PO Box 147
Pennant Hills NSW 2120
Tel 02 9979 9844 or 9484 1341
An association formed for Australian producers of natural essential oils and plant extracts.
Fraser Coast Essential Oils Association
Tel 07 7123 0333
Fax 07 7123 0799
Assists in the growing and distillation of Australian Natives.
Greening Australia (GA)
Head Office: Canberra ACT
Tel 02 6253 3035
Kings Park Botanic Gardens
Perth WA 6000
Tel 08 9480 3600
Extensive research into WA native plant species which includes some
recent work on bushfoods.
Dr Beth Gott
Extensive compilation of plants used by South-east Australian
Aboriginals including the formation of a database with disk information on sale.
National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia Ltd
PO Box 768
Stirling SA 5152
Tel 08 8370 8455
The leading organic growers certification body. Many native food growers are interested in following the path of non-chemical production.
Native Food Growers Group Incorporated
1358 Triamble Road
Hargraves NSW 2850
A recently formed rural group that have raised their own funding and are planning to trial quantities of native food plants in 5 different regions.
Native Plant Seedbank and Database
Dr Nanjappa Ashwath
Primary Industries Research Centre School of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Central Queensland University
Rockhampton QLD 4702
Tel 07 4930 9595
Fax 07 4930 9209
Native Seed Savers Network
PO Box 165
Doonside NSW 2767
Tel 02 4578 4390
A community based project established to facilitate the conservation of bio-diversity in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment.
Plant Breeders Rights
PO Box 858
Canberra ACT 2601
Tel 02 6272 4228
Fax 02 6272 3650
Provides important information on the legalities related to plant
Rainforest Seed Collective
Private Mail Bag
Bellingen NSW 2454
Tel/Fax 02 6655 2233
Centre for Nutrition
Extensive compilation of nutritional information on native foods.
The Food Forest
PO Box 859
Gawler SA 5118
Tel/Fax 08 8522 6450
An excellent example of property planning using a number of different land management techniques including native foods and permaculture.
Tree Crops Centre
PO Box 27
Subiaco WA 6904
Tel 08 9388 1965
Fax 08 9388 1852
An excellent resource provider for those requiring literature/ information on everything edible/useable, including some coverage of native species.
University of Tasmania
Currently researching the leaf extracts of Tasmania lancoelata, Mountain Pepper.
Professor Robert Menary is also investigating its potential. He works at the same institute. Tel 03 6226 2999.
Outstanding features of this plant include -
Relatively large fleshy fruit rounded to oblong, up to 50mm in diameter are dark
purple to black when ripe with bright rich red/maroon coloured juicy pulp. The fruit only have a couple of seeds, which are three winged and easily separated from the pulp. On the skin are fine hairs that are easily wiped off with a rag. The pulp is acid/tart and makes excellent wines and jams. Fallen fruit is eaten by a range of animals including Cassowaries.
Fruits ripen throughout the year but peak availability is Spring and early Summer.
The plant, a small to medium sized tree up to 12m in height is sometimes multi-trunked. The leaves when mature are dark green up to 50cm long and of a quite distinctive shape. The felted pink/tan new growth is very attractive and adds to the demand for plants for their ornamental value in protected sites in larger gardens.
The Northern form of the Davidson Plum is common to the lowland and highland rainforest areas of Northern Queensland. A less common variety called Jerseyana is native to rainforest areas of Northern New South Wales and South East Queensland.
The plant grows well in locations protected from strong winds and full sun, specially during its first few years of planting out. Soil that is moderately fertile with good organic content and kept moist will encourage steady growth. Once the tree is established it can tolerate more open conditions. Remnant trees are sometimes seen along roadsides and in pasture paddocks with fringing rainforest.
Seeds extracted from freshly fallen fruit (you have to be quick to beat the fauna) can be planted in seedbeds or pots. It need not he buried but just covered with peat ‘floss or light potting mix. Only a small amount of the seed is fertile and even the fertile seed will take weeks to germinate. Young plants are very sensitive to drying, hot sun and strong fertilisers. Other methods of propagation have not been observed or read about but layering or marcotting could he useful where plants of superior character are found.
The botanical name ‘pruriens’ means causing itching or stinging. This relates to the fine hairs on parts of the plant, particularly on the skin of the fruit. These fine hairs could cause problems to some people especially if the trees are grown close to living areas. A range of leaf eating insects may attack Davidson Plum plants. Growth of young plants will be retarded by their attack so fine netting may have to be used till the plants are established.
The Name ‘Oo-ray’ was the name used by the Tully River Aboriginals. Early settlers found the wood to be close grained, hard, tough and durable. It was used for tool handles and mallet heads.
Nutritional (source 1:50 000 Snack Map, Mena Creek)
%Water - 91.5
% Protein - 0.41
% fat - 1.7
Energy/Kj/100g - 130.8
The book “North Queensland Native Plants’ SGAP Tablelands Branch 1988, has a detailed recipe for a full-flavoured, dry red wine using 2 kg’s of fruit to make around 4 ltrs of wine.
This book has hints on jam making, preserving, tart fillings and drinks. Mungalli Creek Cheese of Millaa Millaa produce a ‘Davidson Plum farmhouse yoghurt’, a product which further demonstrates the versatility of this fruit as a flavouring.
Indications of significant variation in fruit quality and quantity should lead to seedling selection and propagation of higher quality fruit. Already this plant is a regular feature of revegetation projects. The plant is an important food source for native animals so the increased demand should he taken from planting’s instead of being taken as current wild harvesting.
The Griffith University Project - I have been told that the tissue culture Davidson plants have now been transferred to pots and are doing well. More on this as the project continues.
Finger Lime Harvest
The first commercial harvest of CSIRO bred varieties of our native limes was reported back in January of this year.
The varieties, bred by Dr Steve Sykes of CSIO Plant Industry include the Blood lime (a cross between Mandarin and Finger lime - Citrus australasica var. sanguinea), Sunrise lime and Outback lime (a cultivar of the Desert lime - Citrus glauca).
These varieties can be propagated onto normal citrus rootstocks to yield consistent and quite large volumes of fruit.
Australian Native Produce Industries (ANPI) have been instrumental in establishing more than 16,000 native lime trees in citrus area throughout the country.
I enjoyed reading your recent article on Australian Native Citrus in Australian Bushfoods Magazine (Issue 16, Summer 200l) and I thought your photograph of fruits was an excellent choice for the cover.
In reading the article, I noticed that the parentage of Australian Blood lime was reported incorrectly as an open-pollinated selection from a cross thought to be between Ellendale tangor and a seedling of the red-pulp finger lime (
Citrus australasica, var. sanguinea). The Blood lime was actually selected as a natural hybrid between a zygotic Rangpur lime seedling and seedling of Citrus australasica var. sanguinea as reported in the Australian Bushfoods Magazine (Issue 3, Aug-Sept 1997, p15).
We thought we should bring this to your attention in the event of any future articles in which the origins of this variety are reported.
With best wishes,
Subprogram leader, CSIRO Plant Industry Horticultural Unit
Willow Creek Farm has been going for 5 years and in the last 12 months we have brought Australian bushfoods into our product range with a lot of help from Brian & Di King, growers in SA.
Over the last 3 months, our sales have increased - we find the main market is in tourist areas. We sell in the Barossa Valley S.A. Stanley Brothers Winery, Pitted Olive Gawler SA, Canberra ACT Harcourt Winery and Bowerbird Native Nursery in Qld just to name a few.
At the moment we are hoping to export to the UK.
The main problem we have found is the labelling which we have changed several times as we feel the packaging is what sells the product.
I believe bushfoods sales will increase over the next few years if growers can supply the produce and if the prices are reasonable.
Our price range start from $1.60 - 40g jar to 120g jar $3.50 wholesale other sizes available.
We have a range of products.
I have sent a price list hoping you can open it. The prices are wholesale.
If you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact me.
(see Plants, Products and Prices, Page 40, the Ed).
Why should we plant natives?
In these times there is an increasing emphasis on cultivating native plants in our suburban parks, gardens and farms. The use of native tree and shrub species in revegetation projects on post-mining and degraded farming landscapes is now a well established protocol in the South East region. In the urban landscape, the practitioners of amenity horticulture utilise native plants in two main ways: by planting selections of natives (and exotics) as the ‘soft’ component of landscaping projects into cleared sites; or by the retention of remnant semi-natural and natural vegetation on sites undergoing development and within or adjacent to cleared open space and cultivated gardens.
There are a number of very sound ecological reasons for the planting or retention of native species in the urban landscape. Native plants provide food and shelter and the preferred habitats for our native fauna. The importance of the hollows in large trees is but one of the essential habitat requirements for many species of native fauna that should not be neglected. Native plants have evolved over millions of years in response to Australia’s unpredictable and unreliable rainfall and generally nutrient-deficient soils; because of this there are inherent tolerances and adaptations of many native plant species to various types of environmental stress when planted in difficult sites.
The planting or retention of native plants in buffer zones and corridors environmentally enhances the health and vigour of ornamental plants by creating a diversity of habitats for the natural enemies of serious insect pests. Planting natives into the urban landscape is also a way that we can ensure the survival of certain species that are threatened or endangered in the wild. Native plants within their natural range of distribution will generally not escape cultivation to become bushland weeds.
The cultivation of native plants also makes sound economic sense for urban gardeners and landscapers. Native species are generally easier to plant and maintain, and less demanding of water and nutrients than exotic species. The retention of the undisturbed understorey of large eucalypts creates a ‘low maintenance’ environment that can inhibit the growth and spread of garden weeds. Native plant species are considered pest and disease hardy, and generally their cultivation and maintained health is less reliant than exotics on pesticides. Native planting material is now readily available, and at reasonable cost from specialist plant nurseries. There is a steadily increasing availability of specific information and industry expertise and advice relevant to native plants.
There are also a number of functional and aesthetic reasons for planting native species. A large number of native plants have ornamental attributes; the spectrum of our native flora includes a diversity of size, shape, colour and appearance. Many native sclerophyllous species are cultivated for export as Australian wildflowers. Native rainforest plants are well known and popular in cultivation because of their glossy foliage in spreading canopies, colourful and fleshy fruits, and attractive flowers.
One of the great traditions in the Australian urban landscape is the ‘native garden’. It is a relatively recent tradition however. By the mid nineteenth century in Australia, the advent of the gardening tradition for a increasing influential and affluent ‘backyard’ culture, coincided with the re-introduction of formality into landscape design in Europe. The ‘native garden’ tradition is well established in Australian horticulture.
Why did it take us so long to plant natives?
At first of course the emphasis in gardening and farming for European settlers on in Australia was purely on survival. While many settlers welcomed and felt secure with the appearance of the woodland and grassland landscapes created by indigenous ‘firestick farmers’, the denser ‘bush’ instilled a classical Judeo-Christian fear of the wilderness and an inherent instinct to manipulate and dominate natural ecosystems.
Meanwhile the settler’s garden styles for the affluent reflected a European focus on the classical tradition, with its rigid structure and order, architectural symmetry and the intensive maintenance of easily manipulated manicured domesticated exotic plants.
Under this formal condition, it was thought that the urban landscape should be as perfectly composed as a painting.
Apart from the indigenous araucarian conifers, most of the Australian native plants seemed alien to the gardening ethos of our colonial horticultural forebears because of their harsh and disordered appearance in the wild.
It is probably fair to say that for a long time after initial European settlement in Australia, the native flora species, including ‘bushfoods’, were ignored. To European eyes the native Australian landscape was as inhospitable and alien as perhaps Mars is to us today. In order to seek familarity and order in the new landscape a long way from home and with little prospect of return to the ‘old country’, the European settlers relied almost exclusively on Northern Hemisphere biota in farming and gardening. The ‘acclimatisation societies’ of the 1860s reinforced the zeal of many Europeans to recreate their European home here with imported economic and ornamental plants and animals to an almost obsessional and evangelical extent and to as we now know, the ever lasting detriment of our native biodiversity.
The late nineteenth century witnessed the increasing influence of the middle class and the democratisation of gardening. The greater public interest in horticulture and the freedom from stylist restraint and architectural pragmatism ensured a more eclectic approach so that formality or informality in garden design was now a matter of choice. The widespread embrace of the Australian ‘cottage garden’ style with its characteristic crowded simplicity and diversity of useful and functional plants, promoted probably our out shear necessity for the first time the study of the horticultural attributes of the indigenous flora. At this time, landscape designers were also increasingly influenced by earlier informal traditions of the eighteenth century.
The ‘wild garden’ style was rediscovered and popularised by the influential European landscape designers William Robinson and Gertrude Jekyll. With its emphasis on the planting of hardy indigenous species in a free-growing created wilderness, the ‘wild garden’ tradition was reflected in a more naturalistic garden design in Australia, and the intentional incorporation for the first time of native species in landscape design. Into the early twentieth century, the utilisation of native plants became more widespread, although plant selection lists were still dominated by exotics. It wasn’t until the 1930s that native plants were readily available to hobby gardeners from plant nurseries.
Perhaps the most important advocate of the use of native plants in the urban landscape this century was the Australian landscape designer Edna Walling, who in the post-war era established a tradition of utilising native Australian plants in totally informal ‘bush gardens’. These gardens stated to include Australian native food plants.
After all, it makes sense to plant natives ...
Certainly the original European settlers not only misread the climate and the soils of Australian landscapes, but also ignored and underestimated the attributes of native plants.
The movement to grow exclusively Australian native plants in gardening did not originate until the 1950s and 1960s.
It was largely encouraged by the formation of the Society for Growing Australian Plants (SGAP) formed in 1957.
Since that time the development of the ‘native garden’ in landscape design and as a garden style in its own right, provides a contrast to other highly developed and intensively maintained garden styles dominated by exotics, and has aroused and perpetuated a sense of ‘Australiana’ in the urban landscape and popular culture. After all Australian natives have a quiet and understated beauty and an asymmetry in form that blends in with the existing bushland, and distinguishes them from the more ordered, spectacular and flashy exotics.
Increasing environmental awareness during the 1990s and a reaction to the excesses of unbridled development, has seen a greater emphasis on the cultivation of native plants in the urban landscape, not just because they blend into the natural landscape, but also for their scientific, conservation and fauna habitat value.
The ‘low maintenance’ and ‘lazy gardener’ aspects of easily established and maintained time-efficient native gardens are also important considerations. Don Burke, Peter Cundell and others advocate that appropriate organic mulching will diminish the requirement for expensive and time-consuming on-going inputs of weed control, fertilising and irrigation in native gardens. The present trend of ‘low maintenance’ native gardens in landscape design has been enhanced by busy lifestyles, an awareness of the ecological and economic costs of reticulated water, and the increasing influence of the landscape design profession.
Lawns do not have a role in native gardens...being exotic in origin, and excessive consumers of irrigation water and inorganic nutrients far in excess to the growth requirements of native plants.
There is also a re-examination of the horticultural attributes of natives in the need to conserve water. Many native species are truly drought tolerant and suitable, along with exotic xerophytes, for water-efficient xeriscape plantings.
The term ‘dry’ garden usually infers the use of ‘drought tolerant’ species from dry sclerophyll, woodland and heath vegetation communities. The best known tree and shrub genera representative of these vegetation communities - including
Acacia, Eucalyptus, Hakea, Grevillea, Banksia, Callitris and Casuarina - with their characteristic foliage and flowers, probably best epitomise the unique and harsh Australian bush environment.
The term ‘native garden’ can also include native rainforest plant species in cultivation, many of which and perhaps surprisingly are remarkably hardy and adaptable - far more so than many people realise - even though the various rainforest ecosystems from which they are derived are fragile and often finely balanced. In particular the well known native ‘vine scrub’ species including Kurrajong (Brachychiton populneus), Silky oak (Grevillea robusta) and Bunya pine (Araucaria bidwillii) are remarkably drought tolerant and water efficient in cultivation. The range of available native rainforest species, apart from their aesthetic and functional attributes, also has a number of advantages compared to bushfire-prone sclerophyllous plants. Rainforest plants, with their non-flammable foliage and moist leaf litter upon maturity and canopy closure, are important functionally, and provide a fire-retardant buffer zone.
Why ‘bushfoods’ are an important component of our natural heritage
Our island continent has a unique predominantly endemic floral biodiversity. Historical development of the ‘native garden’ concept, particularly in the past 20 years, has promoted the utilisation of a large range of native plants - not just ‘bushfoods’ but also wildflowers, herbs, groundcovers, climbers, trees, shrubs, fruits, ferns, palms, cycads, orchids, conifers, ornamental grasses and water plants - with the horticultural attributes and versatility to qualify their contribution to the urban landscape and the world of ornamental horticulture.
With the new millennium, there is an ever-increasing interest in, and emphasis on, planting natives.
‘Bushfood’ species are representative of practically all of the vegetation communities in Australia, and there is now also an increasing commercial interest in the domestication and improvement of selected species of Australian native plants as ‘bushfoods’.
There are about 250,000 species of higher plants in the world. Given this biodiversity it is perhaps surprising that with 10,000 years of settled agriculture and ‘civilisation’ only about 100 species have been developed as commercially significant food plants, and only about 20 of these constitute the staple foods of the developed and developing world. These commercial food plants have had a history of selection and improvement in continuous cultivation from the time of the agricultural revolution. However most of the world’s traditional wild foods, and particularly those associated culturally with the world’s indigenous peoples, have been virtually ignored in terms of research and development, and have been generally excluded from agricultural commerce.
Australia’s biological resources are unique, and Australia has an international obligation as a responsible world citizen and signatory to relevant international conventions (such as the 1992 Biodiversity Convention) to enact legislation to protect endangered ecosystems and species and to conserve our unique genetic resources.
In fact Australia is one of the 12 ‘mega-diverse’ regions on the Earth, which account for 70% of the world’s total biodiversity
Australia has about 10% of the world’s biodiversity of higher plants (upwards of 20,000 species) in natural ecosystems. Some 85% of these species are endemic (meaning that they occur nowhere else). Australia’s natural biodiversity and high rate of endemism is a result of a geological history characterised by evolution in isolation, as much as the continent’s extensive latitudinal spread creating a range of climatic zones. During its 40 million year post-Gondwanan geological history, marine barriers isolated Australia and prevented genetic exchanges with other continents. Furthermore the eastern and western coasts of Australia were isolated from each other because of an internal desert barrier.
Most commercial food plants cultivated in the world today are of Mediterranean or tropical origin, and are not inherently adapted to the harsh climates and variable soils of Australia.
The cultivation of these exotic crops demands high inputs of irrigation, nutrients and pesticides and in combination with imprudent Eurocentric land management practices and attitudes over the past 200 years or so has been associated with the ‘mining’ of water and soil resources, thus resulting in severe land degradation.
Apart from their enhanced and concentrated nutritional qualities, wild foods under commercial cultivation are most often a genetic reservoir of inherent adaptability to environmental change, hardiness to adverse climate and soil conditions, and tolerance to native and exotic pests and diseases.
Copyright Ron Mitchell November 2000
Ph: (07) 3826 8434