Trees and plants can be used for a wide variety of industrial and household applications. While they are beautiful and are an important part of the environment, if you usually focus on how trees look in your yard or around your garden, this might be something that is forgotten.
When people think of weaving, they often have cotton, linen or wool in mind. But plants of many sorts also provide fibers that can be woven, twisted or spun into wearable or household threads or cloth. In Australia, bark from several trees and plants were and are used to weave into baskets. Of particular interest to us is the kurrajong, or bottle tree, whose bark can be used as a weaving material. The screwpine or screwpalm, Pandanus spiralis, which is neither a pine or a palm tree but is more closely related to a pineapple, has fibrous leaves that can be processed to produce long fibers that can be woven.
Yucca plants, which have been imported to Australia, can be used as fibers. Yuccas strongly resemble glauca grass trees, having the spikey, grass-like fiber skirt and tall bloom stalk that produces a mass of beautiful, waxy blooms. Glauca grass trees also can be used to produce fibers.
The tall bloom stalks of the glauca grass trees are highly favored by bush survivalists for making fire spinners. The outer stalk is tough, while the dried inner pulp is very nearly perfect for use as tinder.
The dried bloom spikes are also said to make good spear shafts, making them two components of a survivalist answer to “What’s for dinner?” You an not only use your spear to obtain dinner, you can use the stalk to help create a fire to cook it up on.
Glauca grass trees and bottle trees are a feast for bees and other pollinators. They also provide habitat for a variety of birds and animals. Adding these native trees to your garden not only means having beautiful trees that are durable and resist drought, they help maintain native species.
Australia has several kinds of bees and other pollinators, many of which are unique to this island continent. By planting trees and other native vegetation that is unique to Australia, you help provide food and habitat for native species. Since there are many plants and animals that that live in Australia that are not found in any other part of the world, by providing habitat you are helping preserve world diversity.
Tree Sap has its Uses, Too
Glauca grass tree sap is yellow in color and can function as a glue. The aboriginal people of Australia used it to patch water containers, attach spear points, and in constructing or mending didgeridoos. The resin has a sweet scent when burned, and was sometimes used in churches as incense. It has even been used as a varnish for metal cans, especially during World War II.
Dragon trees, which are not native to Australia but adapt well to the climate, are especially well known for their sap, which is a rich red in color. It has been used as a varnish, especially as a finish for violins. It seems that not only does it affect the color of the wood, it also influences the tone.
Edibles from Trees
Birds and bees are not the only ones who can derive edibles from Australian trees. The glauca grass tree blossoms can be soaked in water to produce a sweet drink. The inner bark of Bottle trees can be used as emergency cattle fodder in times of drought. However, caution should be used when feeding bottle tree fiber to cattle.
Queensland Glauca Grass Trees, dragon trees, and bottle trees might seem as if they are simply ornamental shade trees or something unusual to add interest to your garden. But when more closely examined, you will find that each has something unique to add to the local ecology. It is almost as if each one to these trees was designed to be useful from their bottom most root to their topmost leaf.
When combined with lower growing plants, they can create a landscape that is not only edible, but also useful. If that were not enough, by using plants that are native mixed with those that adapt well to the climate, the need for watering, soil adjustment and similar needs are reduces or eliminated altogether.
The exception to this is plants with special needs, such as the glauca grass tree. In order for it to thrive, it must have its own special mycorrhiza present in the soil where it is planted.
With just a little extra planning, you can have a garden that is beautiful and potentially useful.