Australian Grass Tree

Peter Evans

Ridgewood, Australia

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Artist's Description

The Australian Grass tree, colloqually known as the Black Boy tree. This awkward shaped speciman stands about a metre and a half, about 5’ 8’ and would be appromately 75 years old if it one of the fast growing types.

Xanthorrhoea is a genus of flowering plants native to Australia and a member of family Xanthorrhoeaceae. The Xanthorrhoeaceae are monocots, part of order Asparagales. There are 28 species and five subspecies of Xanthorrhoea. Flowers are borne on a long spike above a bare section called a scape, the total length can be up to four metres long in some species. Flowering occurs in a distinct flowering period, which varies for each species. Flowering can be stimulated by bushfire, in which case it occurs in the next flowering period after the fire.

Xanthorrhoea grow very slowly, after an initial establishment phase the average rate of growth varies for each species but can be as high as about 2½ cm per year. Thus a five-metre tall member of one of the fastest growing Xanthorrhoea would be about 200 years old. A slow one may have a lifespan of 600 years.

In the bush the flowers can be used as a compass. This is because flowers on the warmer, sunnier side of the spike (usually the north facing side) often open before the flowers on the cooler side facing away from the sun.

Xanthorrhoea is important to the Aboriginal people who live where it grows. The flowering spike makes the perfect fishing spear. It is also soaked in water and the nectar from the flowers gives a sweet tasting drink.

The resin from Xanthorrhoea plants is used in spear-making and is an invaluable adhesive for Aboriginal people, often used to patch up leaky coolamons (water-containers) and even didgeridoos.

East of Dwellingup
Western Australia.

Olympus E300

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