Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Friday, October 14, 2011

Grass Trees flower well after fire.

These Grass Trees (Xanthorrhoea australis) are in flower now. The flower stem and scape totalled more than 3.5 metres high. It is very impressive in flower.

Grass Trees (Xanthorrhoea australis)
They are in the Belmore Falls part of the Morton National Park, near a toilet block close to Hindmarsh Lookout. This area was burnt out about 18 months ago by vandals who burnt out a car there. The Grass Trees in that area were all burnt. Suddenly, these plants are now nearly all in flower (but only the ones which were burnt).
I have previously written about flowering Grass Trees in the Sandstone forests around Robertson, because their flowering is a relatively rare event. 

You can read a general description of the Xanthorrhoea genus on Wikipedia 
The exact determination of the different species in the Xanthorrhoea genus is notoriously difficult. In general, most botanists use a ration of the length of the flower stem to the length of the flower "scape" (the bit with the dark hairs and the flowers embedded in it). you can refer to detailed species notes on PlantNET here.

I do know we have many short-stemmed Grass Trees in the upland swamps of Butler's Swamps and out on the Barren Grounds. They look very different, with no trunk at all, and a much finer flower spike and scape than this handsome beast.
Leaves of Grass Tree and stem base
Base of Grass Tree - I can just grip around the stem

Top of Grass Tree stem.


Masses of flower on the stem of Grass Tree
A single flower of a Grass Tree (Xanthorrhoea australis)
This next image shows why Honeyeaters and bees are attracted to Grass Trees.
I tasted this sticky bead of nectar, and it was very pleasant. The Aboriginal people are reported to have soaked flower stems in water to gather  a sweet drink. They also use the resin from the base of the trunk for a kind of strong glue.
A bead of sweet nectar on the flower of a Grass Tree
The fact that Grass Trees are triggered into flowering is well recorded, but there is a spectacular photo of this on Earth Sciences Picture of the Day from 1 May 2007. It is well worth the look.

I have received a comment from "Le Loup", an expert in bush craft and self-sufficiency. I hope that's a fair interpretation of his skills.
You can judge for yourself at "A Woodrunner's Diary"
Le Loup has told me:
The inner core of the flower stem can be used as tinder for making fire with flint, steel & tinderbox. The natives used/use it to carry fire from one place to another. The lower foliage can often be found to be dry under the outer layers & it makes good kindling. This plant grows in every state of Australia.
The flower stem can also be used for making a hand fire drill & for making the bit & fireboard of a fire-bow.
Regards.
http://woodsrunnersdiary.blogspot.com/

4 comments:

mick said...

Nice photos of the xanthorrhoea in flower. I noticed the other day that the ones down on the flats around here were coming into flower. I was going to wait until they were right out before photographing them. The ones on the flats around here are called swamp grass tree and have no aerial trunk at all. I have been told they are xanthorrhoe
fulva.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick.
The swampy areas do have shorter Grass Trees. The PlantNET site has some notes on that species you mentioned.
I always love these plants - strange, but full of interest.
Cheers
Denis

Le Loup said...

The inner core of the flower stem can be used as tinder for making fire with flint, steel & tinderbox. The natives used/use it to carry fire from one place to another. The lower foliage can often be found to be dry under the outer layers & it makes good kindling. This plant grows in every state of Australia.
The flower stem can also be used for making a hand fire drill & for making the bit & fireboard of a fire-bow.
Regards.
http://woodsrunnersdiary.blogspot.com/

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Le Loup
I am not really surprised (and very pleased) that you know how this wonderful plant can be utilised.
Thanks for your contribution.
I shall include your notes in the text, so more people see it.

Thanks
Denis