Grass Trees and Their Many Uses

While most tend to view the grass tree purely as a native ornamental, grass trees are surprisingly useful in a number of ways. The indigenous Australians used to obtain a variety of resources from the grass trees around them, many of which could still be beneficial to modern day life.


Grass Trees as a Food Source

Grass trees used to be harvested for a variety of different foods, one of the most popular being the incredibly tender white sections of the leaf bases. The succulent roots, along with the tips of the stems, were eaten too, while the grass tree seeds used to be ground up, made into a flour, and then kneaded into a dough to make a local soda bread.

Grass tree flowers are extremely rich in nectar – when soaked in water, this gives you a deliciously-sweet drink, which can then be fermented to make a citrus-flavoured alcoholic drink. Of course, with nectar comes bees, with carpenter bees in particular favouring grass trees and building their nests within, in which small pockets of honey can be found.


Grass Tree Resin as Glue

The powdery resin obtained from the grass tree makes a fantastic glue. The fact that it is also waterproof made it perfect for repairing water containers and other important items back in the day.

Up until the 20th century, when plastics became more prevalent, grass tree resin was utilised for several other purposes too. It was used as a stove polish, in manufacturing varnishes, in meat canning, and even in the manufacturing of music records.


Grass Tree Flowers as a Compass

If you ever find yourself wandering through the bush unsure of directions, try to find a flowering grass tree. This is one of the ways in which the Aboriginals used to tell north from south – the flowers that were on the north side of the plant would usually bloom earlier than those on the south side, simply because they were facing the sun.


Grass Tree Flower Stalks as Tools

Once the flower stalks produced by the grass tree die, they become impressively strong. The Aboriginals would fashion these dried stalks into weapon spear shafts, before cooking the meat that they caught over a fire made by using the stalks to create friction by hand.


Grass Trees and Wildlife

Grass trees play a hugely important role when it comes to providing a habitat and a source of food for wildlife. Many are surprised to learn about the sheer diversity of animals that depend on the grass tree, from black cockatoos, who extract beetle larvae from within the grass tree flower spikes, to majestic emus.

Bees, butterflies, ants, and several other insect species are all attracted to the grass tree’s flowers, which then makes the grass tree even more appealing to different birds that eat those insects. Many ground-dwelling mammals also live within the grass tree’s leaf skirts, with these dense coverings providing important protection from predators.

Grass trees have played such a key role in Australia’s heritage, making it no surprise that they are still loved today. Adding a grass tree to your garden will not only give that space a dramatic and attention-grabbing focal point, but it also gives you a living piece of history that you will be able to cherish for a lifetime.


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