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Flowers on Wood

Biodiversity in Ozparagus 

Asparagus is not the sole resource at Ozparagus Emerald Plantation. There’s bush tucker along the riverbank, on levees and roadsides.

Our riverbank is covered with spreading River Red Gums, pierced only by irrigation lines from aquifers. These huge eucalypts, E. camaldulensis, have two root systems. In times past, in less fruitful parts of Australia, the shallow roots were dug up, bark removed, and young roots roasted on a fire and then pounded into flour.


Along our river it was far easier to make flour from the seed of our very prolific wattle, Acacia sclerosperma. It’s everywhere, called Limestone or Carnarvon Wattle, also Parrumba. The pods can be boiled as greens or mature seed roasted and then ground.

Slip down the bank to collect blossom from Cadjeput, the paper bark Melaleuca Leucadendron, which grows close to the water table. You can infuse this in a jug of water to prepare a sweet drink. Walk on the sandy riverbed and collect Bush Lolly, which is the dried sap of the Kanji Bush, little Acacia pyrofolia. Watch out for the sharp spikes on its leaves. Most acacia seed is edible. 


You will probably see green, yes green, flowers nearby, on Rattlepod Birdflower bushes, Crotalaria cunninghamii. Each flower looks like a bird hanging by its beak. This grey-leafed bush and the Kanji Bush pop up in the riverbed after each river run, only to be washed away in the next.


For the dinner table, dry press each bird blossom and glue to place mats of paper bark. To waterproof, place each mat in a laminator pouch. Then heat-seal under paper and a hot iron.


 Eucalypts drop branches to save water when the river has not run for a year or so. This creates nesting holes for birds and climbing frames for bush creepers, like Split Jack, Capparis lasiantha, which hooks its way up, bursting into flower and tasty fruit.


Wild passion fruit, Passiflora foetida, is said to have arrived many hundreds of years ago, maybe with the Portuguese who got it from the Spanish who got it from the Aztecs. It’s generally recognized now that the Portuguese landed on and mapped bits Australia’s North-west coast as part of their quest for spice islands.

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The purple flowers of the Tar Vine, Commicarpus australis, are a quick guide to the little yams on its roots.

Blue Bush and Salt Bush are edible greens and safe from stock on our riverbank, whereas upstream in station country they can get eaten out.

Many edible plants which have been grazed out by stock still grow on our riverbank, like Shrubby Rice Flower Pimelea microcephala, which has whitish edible berries. 

Maybe you are looking for Raggedleafed Fanflower so you can brew cancer-curing tea from its leaves? Locals swear by this bush for curing all sorts of things, especially skin cancers. Its bark and roots are used for ‘tummy-upsets’.

Officially Scaevola spinescens, it is also called currant bush. Its little black currants are safe to eat.


Small trees include the Minga or Ant Tree, Heterodendum oleaefolium, which never loses it leaves and is a favourite shade tree for kangaroos inland. Emus and ’roos only enter the irrigation district in times of extreme drought, desperately seeking water. This little tree provides shelter for small animals, which are often food for others.  This stumpy tailed blue tongued lizard is normally out of sight. The large goanna below was heading for the chook pen. Now that’s real bush tucker!

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Black Night Shade is a weed, but we let the odd one grow as an indicator, for its roots give an early warning of root knot nematodes in the soil. Often confused with Deadly Nightshade, our night shade berries grow in clusters and are high in Vitamin C. Only when green are the berries poisonous, although overeating it causes problems. ‘Everything in moderation’, as they say!


Wild Turnip

Nutgrass, Cyperus rotundis, is rated as the world’s worst weed but its ‘nuts’ can be used to repel insects when fresh and smelly. When dry they can be ground up and added to all sorts of foods, beverages and medicines. One round rhizome, or ‘nut’, has been cut open to show the white carbohydrate which is a staple food in tropical regions for modern hunter-gatherers, and a famine food in some farming cultures. Each ‘nut’ can grow shoots and roots. Root chains of ‘nuts’ spread underground, only growing shoots if the chain is broken. So, if one weed is removed, another grows, often at some distance from the first. No wonder it has survived since the ancients in Africa discovered its uses back as far as 6700 BC.

Wild Turnip, Brassica tournefortii and Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum, are related to real turnips and radishes and their roots taste the same but are less developed. You’d do a farmer a favour by pulling up plenty of the pesky weeds to get yourself a decent feed!


Wild Raddish

One of our weeds, Emex australias, was actually brought to W.A. by South African migrants as a leafy vegetable, now known as the notorious ‘Double-gee', our pronunciation of its Africaans name meaning devil’s thorn. It’s also known as Three Cornered Jack. The leaves are tender and seed-free if collected before the plant flowers. They are cooked like any other vegetable green but if they are eaten in large quantities they act as a laxative.

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We began with the roots of River Red Gums. Long before this last-ditch tucker was even considered the juicy roots of the beautiful Batwing Coral Tree would have been accessed.

Their roots can be crunched raw for they are just as porous as the trunk of these trees we all call Yulbah, officially Erythrina verspertilio. They grow tall beside the river in the rich loamy soil. The light-weight, corky branches and whole logs float down stream in each river-run, often collected for carving. In harsher climates their red flowers look like coral on reefs of bare branches but being subtropical and close to the sea our Yulbah never loses its leaves.

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