Cairns Botanic Gardens

along this walk through the gardens you will find some plants that were and are used by the various groups of Rainforest aboriginals who live in cairns to mareeba area.

The main groupings in the Cairns regions are:

DJABUGANYDJI – Kuranda to Mareeba area

GUNGGANYDJI – Yarrabah area

YIDINDJI – Mulgrave river to upper barron river on tablelands

YIRRGANYDJI – Barron river along the coast to Mowbray River

The native Australian plants are used as a major source of food, shelter, medicine, clothing, utensils, tools and weapons. Over a period dated in the excess of 40,000 years. During this time they have developed an extensive and detailed knowledge of the properties and uses of these plants. The forest was the source of life. a fact that we today are only beginning to relearn for ourselves.

Much of this knowledge has been lost due to the scattering of the various peoples and a movement away from traditional values and uses.

Many of the plant species in the Australian rain forest are edible, but a significant number are also extremely poisonous.

C plants

C plants2

Let me identify some plants for you;

ZINGIBERACEAE BARRGAL Pron: BURRAGULL – the leaves of this ginger were laid under or used to wrap meat when it was cooked in earth ovens. this imparted a spicy taste and protected the meat from the dirt. the bright blue berries are edible and were often chewed and the seeds were spat out, resulting in a prolific number of plants growing along the walking trails. The berries were also used as a bait to attract scrub turkeys into hooped net traps. The young tips of roots are also edible.

ZAMIACEAE WUNU Pron: (WOO-NOO) – these rainforest cycads reach heights of 20 metres. they are found in coastal rainforest in well shaded and moist conditions. as with other members of the cycads, the poisonous seeds were roasted, crushed and leached in water to render them edible.

AMARYLLIDACEAE – these lilies are very common along tidal streams and river banks where they form dense margins that help trap silt and stabilize the banks. the leaves were crushed and rubbed on the body to relieve pain from the stings of marine jellyfish. The bulbs can be crushed and boiled in water which can be used as an antiseptic while the skins of the bulb are used as a dressing for wounds and leprosy.

ARECACEAE BUGUL Pron: (BOOK-KOOL) – these thin flexible trunks of this and other climbing palms made ideal building frames or ropes and string when split. the young shoots were eaten to cure headaches. A close relative is the infamous Calamus radicalis (wait-a-while) which entangles unwary passers by with recurved hooks attached to long thin flagella.. The young growing tips of these were chewed and swallowed to stop dysentery and the sap was taken as a drink to relieve symptoms of colds and flu.

So now next time you find yourself lost in the woods, you can survive off the plants that are edible for you to survive and live another day. If you know any other toxic plants that are edible, do share?

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