Aboriginal Plant Use

By Erin Mooney

Introduction

The Aborigines eat many foods that we are not used to, e.g. ants, grubs and beetles....but have you ever heard of them eating fungus?!

Here are five different types of fungi that Aborigines eat, or use for medicinal purposes:

The Choiromyces aboriginum

Common Name: Choiromyces fungi.

Located: Dry areas of Southern Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Family Name: Tuberaceae family.

Appearance: Spherical shape, with mostly brown surface and white inside.

Use: This type of fungi is a traditional native food, also used as a source of water.

Unique Features: Truffle-like, grows to seven centimetres in diametre.

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The Cyttaria gunnii

Common Name: Myrtle orange/Beech orange fungi.

Located: Tasmania and Southern Victoria.

Family Name: Cyttariaceae family.

Appearance: Circular, up to 2.5 centimetres in diametre and is orange-white coloured.

Use: This type of fungi is apparently very delicious, with a sweet juice inside.

Unique Features: This particular fungus grows on a specific type of tree called the Nothofagus tree.

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The Laccocephalum mylittae

Common Name: Polyporus mylittae fungi.

Located: Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.

Family Name: Polyporaceae family.

Appearance: This mould is tough on the outside, with a creamish or black inside.

Use: This type of fungi, apparently tastes a lot like boiled rice, even though it is cooked or roasted.

Unique Features: The Aborigines often found the fungus by sticking a stick into the ground as they walked along, and then smelling it after, to determine if it smelt anything like the Laccocephalum mylittae.

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The Podaxis pistillaris

Common Name: Stalked Puffball fungi.

Located: Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales.

Family Name: Agaricaceae family.

Appearance: This type of fungus can get up to 15 centimetres high, because of its thick stem, with a white cracked surface.

Use: This type of fungus is used to darken white hair, to do body art and to act as a fly repellent.

Unique Features: This fungus is distinctively related to the puff balls.

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The Pycnoporus sp.

Common Name: None.

Located: Northern Territory, New South Wales and South Australia.

Family Name: Polyporaceae family.

Appearance: This type of fungi is a very fluorescent bright orange colour, with a hard coral-like surface.

Use: This type of fungus is used like a lip-balm, for sore lips, just use the juice from the inside of the mould and rub on lips.

Unique Features: Two antibiotic compounds have been found in this type of mould.

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Introduction

Did you know that Aborigines also use some plants as well, for medicinal purposes or just to eat? Here are five different types of plants that Aborigines use:

The Acacia melanoxylon

Common Name: Blackwood.

Located: New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria.

Family Name: Fabaceae family.

Appearance: The tip of this particular plant has yellow puffs and a grey stem.

Use: This type of plant is used to make a spears and shields.

Unique Features: This plant is found all over Australia.

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The Banksia spp.

Common Name: Banksia.

Located: All over Australia.

Family Name: Proteaceae family.

Appearance: This type of plant is brown and spiked all over.

Use: Banksias are used to extract nectar and water to drink or use.

Unique Features: Some Aborigines use this plant for drinking supplies.

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The Citriobatus pauciflorus

Common Name: Orange Thorn.

Located: New South Wales and Queensland.

Family Name: Pittosporaceae family.

Appearance: This plant is a shrub, but the fruit are round and yellow, usually about 1-3 cm across.

Use: This particular plant is just an edible fruit.

Unique Features: This fruit has leathery skin for its surface.

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The Marsilea drummondii

Common Name: Nardoo fern.

Located: New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.

Family Name: Marsileaceae family.

Appearance: This plant looks like a four-leaf clover, but bigger.

Use: This plant is grinder and then put into damper.

Unique Features: This kind of damper was made a lot when food was in short supply.

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The Nothofagus moorei

Common Name: Antarctic Beech.

Located: New South Wales and Queensland.

Family Name: Nothofagaceae family.

Appearance: This plant is about the size of a golf ball, little spikes that grow on a large tree.

Use: This plant is peeled and then eaten.

Unique Features: This plant is also an orange mould.

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References

Websites:

http://www.anbg.gov.au/fungi/aboriginal.html

http://www.westgatepark.org/fungi-2/fungi/

http://www.cpbr.gov.au/fungi/mycogeography-australia.html

http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/potd/2012/10/cyttaria-gunnii.php

http://fungimap.org.au/index.php/fduonline-home/105/294/polypores/P-laccocephalum-mylittae

http://bie.ala.org.au/species/f6f8f5cc-4822-47d5-b8ce-4c20367f66b4

http://www.mycokey.com/MycoKeySolidState/species/Phellorinia_herculeana.html

http://www.cpbr.gov.au/fungi/images-captions/pycnoporus-sp-0115.html

http://www.anbg.gov.au/gardens/visiting/exploring/aboriginal-trail/index.html

https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/interns-2004/marsilea-drummondii.html

Pictures from Creative Commons:

Choiromyces aboriginum -

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/45/Maeandertrueffel.jpg

Cyttaria gunnii -

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/55/Cyttaria_gunnii.jpg

Laccocephalum mylittae -

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7a/Tuckahoe.jpg

Podaxis pistillaris -

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5b/Mushroom_in_Wadi_Rum_02.jpg

Pycnoporus sp. -

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bb/Fungi_bracket_reduced.jpg

Acacia melanoxylon -

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a3/Acacia_melanoxylon_(Flowers).jpg

Banksia spp. -

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/50/Banksia_victoriae_-_Woolly_Orange_Banksia-6.JPG

Marsilea drummondii -

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7b/Marsilea_drummondii_cropped.jpg

Nothofagus moorei -

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/12/Nothofagus_obliqua_Shoot_LeavesCupules.jpg