Mistletoe

Plant Profile :  Mistletoe

Mistletoe

Name: Mistletoe

Scientific Classification: Australia has two species, Loranthaceae  and Santalacaea

Location: all over Australia, except for Tasmania.

 

They are a parasitic plant that grows on trees and shrubs.  Their modified root system, called haustoria, burrows into the bark of the host tree.  The leaves of the mistletoe have chlorophyll so they can make their own food but they need water and nutrients. Their haustorium penetrates the bark via enzymatic breakdown and uses the host’s water supply and dissolved nutrients.

 

The mistletoe produces little pea-sized fruits with a bitter skin, sweet flesh and a seed covered with a sticky coating.  When a bird eats the fruit, the seed sticks to their beak, so the bird wipes the seed onto a branch, where it quickly germinates and thrusts a root into the host plant.  The fruit and flowers are really important for the food supply of surrounding wildlife, such as possums, birds and insects.

 

Our Encounter

We were at a rest area on the Stuart Highway, somewhere between Alice Springs and Tennant Creek and we noticed some finches in a shrub covered in red, trumpeted flowers and little black berries.  We checked the Bush Tucker Guide and found it to be mistletoe!

 

Dave was the first to try the berry.  The flesh was nice and sweet but spitting the seed out was nearly impossible because of that sticky coating.  We always get excited when we stumble across bush tucker – especially if we haven’t tried it before – so we had a bit of a look around the area but we didn’t find any more with ripe fruit.

 

Mistletoe

 

Disclaimer: We are not bush tucker experts!  We have a bush tucker guide and we will only eat wild berries and such once we are 100% confident that it’s safe.  We must stress that you should not eat anything until you are also 100% confident and educated that it is safe and non-toxic.

 

The Derby Prison Tree

Plant Profile : The Boab Tree

The Majestic Boab Name: Boab

Scientific Classification: Adansonia Gregorii

Alternative Names: Australian baobab, bottle tree, dead rat tree, gouty stem tree   The Boab has become the symbol of the Kimberley due to its unique and interesting shape.  It is a hardy, bulbous tree with silver grey bark that grows best in sandy soil and can live for hundreds of years.  During the Wet Season, they blossom with large white flowers that attract fruit bats, and during the Dry Season, they lose their leaves and leave behind massive nuts.   These nuts are either oval or round in shape and contain edible flesh and seeds that can be eaten raw or cooked by putting the whole nut into the fire.  They are a good source of vitamin C and protein and can be packed for long distance travel because if you don’t open the nut, the seeds will keep, so they’re a little like a food time capsule.  You can also carve the outside of the nut and made a pretty ornament.  The flesh of the tree trunk holds a lot of water so if you’re desperate for a drink, cut a piece off and chew it to get the moisture out.

 

The Kimberley 2013-05-25 003

 

The Australian boab is related to the ones that comes from Madagascar, India and South Africa, and possibly made it to Australia via the trading routes from Madagascar and South Africa to Indonesia.  The seamen may have stocked up on the boab nut and if they crashed their ship, the nuts could have floated their way down to the Kimberley coastline.  In 1837, when George Grey first started exploring the Kimberley, he saw the Boab and thought that the odd-shaped trees were diseased.  Another theory is that boab trees have survived on the Australian continent from when it was connected to Africa around 65 million years ago.

 

Dreamtime Story

Back in the day, the boab was seen as such a proud and arrogant tree that the Dreamtime spirits said, “We’ll fix you!”   The spirits pulled the boab out of the ground and stuck it back into the earth upside down!  The twisted branches you see are actually the twisted roots, and the kooky thing is that the story that the natives in Madagascar tell about their baobab tree is quite similar.

 

Our Encounter

Apart from the logo on our camping chairs, we didn’t spot a boab tree until we were near Broome.  You can’t truly appreciate these bizarre, twisted trees until you’ve actually see a few of them in person.

 

They’re scattered all over the northern parts of WA and NT and some of them are huge!   Some of the more famous boabs to check out are the Boab Prison Tree (one near Derby, one near Wyndham), the Gregory Tree near Timber Creek, and the ‘biggest boab in captivity’ that is located at the caravan park in Wyndham.  We even heard about a ‘tapped’ boab tree somewhere near El Questro – turn the tap and water comes out!   We’ve both come to love the silhouette of these majestic trees, with their warped branches and fat bellies.  We’ve also both tried our hand at some boab nut carving – it’s more difficult and time consuming than we thought!

 

Disclaimer: We are not bush tucker experts!  We have a bush tucker guide and we will only eat wild berries and such once we are 100% confident that it’s safe.  We must stress that you should not eat anything until you are also 100% confident and educated that it is safe and non-toxic.

 

Bush Passionfruit

Plant Profile : Bush Passionfruit

Bush Passionfruit

 

Name: Bush Passionfruit

Scientific Classification: Passiflora foetida

Alternative Names: wild passionfruit, stinking passionfruit

 

Native to South America, the bush passionfruit is a climbing vine with a thin stem and broad leaves that are covered in little hairs.  During the Wet Season, it produces little smelly flowers that are pale purple-white, and during the Dry Season, the small, round fruits develop with a feathery bract surrounding it and ripen to a rich yellow colour.

 

While the leaves and unripe green fruit are toxic, the ripe yellow fruit is very much edible.  It is full of little black seeds that are covered in a cloudy membrane, they have a tangy taste and smells similar to traditional passionfruit.

 

Our Encounter

On our way out of Cathedral Gorge at the Bungle Bungles, we saw little yellow fruits wrapped in a delicate lacey covering on some vines.  Juz stopped in her tracks and said, “This is it!  This is bush passionfruit!”

 

Bush Passionfruit

 

We collected a handful and went back to the car to check the Bush Tucker Man book and make sure we weren’t about to poison ourselves. The taste wasn’t as sweet as what we were expecting but the insides resembled passionfruit – little black seeds coated in a gooey substance.

 

Disclaimer: We are not bush tucker experts!  We have a bush tucker guide and we will only eat wild berries and such once we are 100% confident that it’s safe.  We must stress that you should not eat anything until you are also 100% confident and educated that it is safe and non-toxic.