On our final day in Adelaide we were able to go on a fascinating tour of the Botanic Gardens with Hayden from Bookabee Tours, where we learnt all about the Aboriginal culture and how they used the land for food, weapons and shelter.
Hayden was an Australian Aboriginal himself, so the tour was very authentic and obviously informed by years of expertise passed down to him. As we wandered through the beautiful gardens in the heart of the city, Hayden gave us an insight into how these plants were used, and we marvelled at the huge, tall trees and vibrant, colourful flowers. We cast our minds a couple of hundred years back, when there were no Europeans around yet, searching for plants for survival (food) and weaponry as the Kaurna people once did. Wanna see how we did? Keep reading then.
First we had the pleasure to admire a Grass Tree, a flowering plant native to Australia. This is an extremely useful plant, very good for keeping you hydrated in the hot, dry Outback. It collects water in its shoots and you can suck on it (apparently it tastes like coconut). Or you can make a paste of it and use it as a glue.
It grows very slowly (about an inch/year) and it needs fire to survive (which is not an issue in the Outback, however, in the Garden they have to regularly burn it for it to thrive!
Next we moved onto the Ribbon Gum. The one we saw was 500 years old! You can see it has holes in it made by a moth’s larvae; this is a valuable source of protein for travelling Aboriginal people (all I can say to that is eeeeeeeek!).
Then there is the Bunya Tree (which – let’s be honest – looks a lot like an elephant trunk sticking out from the ground). This tree would be used as a shelter from rain and wind (because of the dome-like branch structure reaching all the way to the ground). It produces bunya nuts (every 3 years or so) which were used by the Aboriginal people as a currency.
Nilli Pilli (how funny, hey?) are red berries rich in water, which are today made into jams (anyone for a Nilli Pilli jam? :))
Wonder why the below tree is called the ‘Ghost Gum‘? Well for starters, it is as white as one (as it sheds all its bark).
And lastly, there is the Parma Spherelilly – a plant that grows in rings (spheres) and used to be use by the Aboriginal people as a camouflage to hunt animals. It also has an edible root and its leaves can be dried and made into baskets. Clever, right?
The tour cumulated in a visit to Tandanya, the National Aboriginal Cultural Institute. Established in 1989, it is the first and only of its kind and size. Here we were treated to a performance on the didgeridoo, and were told of its cultural significance to the Aboriginal people. The centre was also home to a fantastic collection of Aboriginal art work, which was a striking reminder of the turbulent past of the people, and a great insight into their importance in Australian history. We learnt a lot and thoroughly enjoyed our morning.
How about you? Would you give a nice fat larvae a go if your life depended on it? And do you know much about the history of the Australian Aboriginal people? Share your thoughts below.