Pandanus Spiralus

Plant Profile : Pandanus Spiralus

Screwpine

Name: Pandanus Spiralus

Alternative names: Screw pine, Pandanus palm, Screw palm

Location: Generally around coastal regions of Northern Australia, throughout the Kimberley and Top End, and in Queensland.

 

The pandanus palm has a narrow trunk and long, thin leaves with prickles on the edges.  The leaves can grow up to 2 metres long while the tree can get up to 10 metres tall.  The leaves grow up the trunk in a spiral, hence the name – pandanus spiralus.

 

Pandanus Spiralus

 

They constantly grow upwards, producing new leaves at the top and the old leaves at the bottom die and hang on to produce a grass skirt around the trunk.  When bushfires occur, the dead dry leaves burn quickly and turn the tree into a huge fireball, but the plant survives.

 

The tree produces a cluster of woody fruit. The fruit is ripe when it turns a reddy-orange colour but the best time to eat the seeds inside is when the fruit turns brown.  Because the fruit is so tough, you need to put it into a vice and saw through it.  The seeds are said to taste a little like peanuts and coconuts mixed together.

 

The pandanus is very important to Aboriginal people and has a variety of uses from food to craft and even medicine.  They would make didgeridoos out of the trunks, toys from the fruit and would use the leaves to make necklaces, mats or string satchels.

 

 

Our Encounter:

We first saw pandanus palms when we arrived in Broome.  There were a few growing in town but it wasn’t until we were driving through the Kimberley that we saw them in the wild.  We were on the road to Mitchell River when we were suddenly surrounded by a forest of them.  We had never seen such a landscape before and it was like we were transported to some tropical island.   Also, when we went to the Keep River, the banks were lined with pandanus palms and we stood amongst them while fishing.  Don’t get too close though, their prickles are really prickly!

 

Lure fishing

 

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.