Bush Tucker

Last updated: 19 March 2018

Over the last few years, we’ve been including some native bush tucker in our gardens too. This is an inventory of what we have, where they grow, what they’re called and what they can be used for. Over the years we’ll report on their progress too.

Although you can find spectacular photos of these plants via Google or some websites listed on our “Good blogs” page, all the photos are of our own specimens – mostly very young plants. Over the years we’ll update the photographs as they grow and hopefully bear fruit.

Here they are listed alphabetically by English name, which I know is not very scientific:

Aniseed myrtle – Syzygium anisatum (1)

Alternate names: Ringwood

Growth: The tree can reach up to 45 metres in a rainforest environment but most often as a small to medium tree in open garden situations.  The plant has a dense cover of fine lush green foliage throughout the year with white scented flowers in the spring. Aniseed Myrtle prefers well-drained, nutrient-rich soil in a sunny position, but may also be grown in part shade. Established trees are relatively hardy and will tolerate dry weather. Younger saplings may need to be protected from both drought and hard frosts.

Edible: It has strong aniseed scented and flavoured leaves which are often used for flavouring desserts, sweet sauces and preserves. It also is popular as a scented savoury sauce or marinade for meats and sets a deep fragrant flavour to salad dressings. It has a subtle sweet liquorice flavour. Great with fish or pork, steamed rice, seafood, biscuits, ice-cream or tea.

Medicinal: Traditionally used for weight loss, lactation and stomach complaints. A study by Zhao et. al. (2007) showed strong activity of anise myrtle against the common food spoilage bacteria Bacillus subtilis. Anise myrtle methanol extract also demonstrated activity against Cholera. The study also showed Antioxidant activity and free radical scavenging.

Aboriginal name: Wurrganyga (Gumbaynggirr People)

Source: Beach Tree Nursery

Bush - aniseed myrtle

Bignay – Antidesma bunius (2)

Alternate names: Wild cherry, currant tree, Salamander tree, Queensland cherry

Growth: This medium tree does well in full sun or part shade, and can handle a range of soil types. Protect from frosts and drying winds. Leaves are glossy and dark green, providing dense, attractive shade, year-round. This is a variable plant which may be short and shrubby or tall and erect, approaching 30 metres in height. It has large oval shaped leathery evergreen leaves up to about 20 cm long and seven wide. They are attached to the twigs of the tree with short petioles, creating a dense canopy. The species is dioecious, with male and female flowers growing on separate trees. The flowers have a strong, somewhat unpleasant scent.

Edible: The fruits are spherical and just under a centimetre wide, hanging singly or paired in long, heavy bunches. They are white when immature and gradually turn red, then black. Each bunch of fruits ripens unevenly, so the fruits in a bunch are all different colours. The skin of the fruit has red juice, while the white pulp has colourless juice. The fruit contains a light-coloured seed. The fruit has a sour taste similar to that of the cranberry when immature, and a tart but sweet taste when ripe. The fruits are most often used for making wine and tea and is also used to make jams and jellies. Bignay fruit sauce is sour and delicious when served with fish. Bignay leaves are tart and may be used to flavour rice, salads, vegetables dishes and meat stews. Bignay leaf tea is also consumed throughout Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines.

Medicinal: Juices derived from ripe Bignay fruit is used for healing coronary heart disease. It is anti-oxidative. The fruit reduces platelet aggregation. It is anti-carcinogenic. The young leaves are boiled and used for treating syphilis. The fruit has anti-ageing properties. Leaves are sudorific and used in treating snakebites in Asia

Aboriginal name: Buni (WA), Chunka (QLD)

Source: Beach Tree Nursery

Bush - Bignay

Black Plum – Diospyros australis (2)

Alternate names: Black Ebony, Grey Plum or Yellow Persimmon

Growth: Shrub or small evergreen tree whose leaves are dark green on the upper surface and yellowish below. Small yellow flowers are followed by shiny black berries in late summer and autumn. It has fire retardant properties. It can handle mild frost. Black Plum prefers moist soils and can tolerate heavy shade. It performs best with protection from both wind and afternoon sun.

Edible: Berries are 10-15mm in size, starting out yellow and turning into black edible fruit in autumn as they ripen and become soft, with a sweetness that makes them perfect for jellies, chutneys and jams.

Medicinal: The black plum is known to relieve stomach pain, carminative, anti-scorbutic and diuretic. Black Plum vinegar is good to reduce enlargement of spleen, diarrhoea, and those have urine retention problems. Jamum’s ployphenolic compounds are effective against cancer, heart diseases, diabetes, asthma and arthritis. Black Plum fruit and its leaves are good for diabetic patients – the fruit helps to convert starch into energy and keep your blood sugar levels in check.

Aboriginal name: Burrpurr (Yolngu), Jamun

Source: Beach Tree Nursery

Bush - black plum

Black She-oak – Allocasuarina littoralis (2)

Alternate names: Oak apple, Bull Oak, Wayetuck, River Black Oak

Growth: Small fast growing hardy upright tree with dark green pendulous, needle-like foliage. Dioecious flowering with male flowers a golden yellow and females red. Female trees produce hard, woody seed cones, which attracts cockatoos and gang gangs. This tall graceful tree has small woody “oak-apples” from December to February.

Edible: Young cones were eaten. The wispy leaves and sometimes the oak-apple were chewed as a thirst-quencher, their acidity activating the salivary glands.  The roots have been known to yield drinkable water.

Medicinal: Young cones were also used for medicine and magic. An infusion of inner bark was used as a mouth wash (not swallowed) to relieve sore throats and toothaches.

Aboriginal name: Wayetuck (Wurundjeri)

Source: Otway Indigenous Nursery

Bush - she-oak

Blueberry Ash – Elaeocarpus reticulatus (2)

Alternate names: Fairy Petticoats, Koda

Growth: A strikingly beautiful and hardy small tree or tall shrub with a dense crown of foliage in a conical form. The flowers and fruits often appear on the plant together, so providing a stunning double display. The small flowers, called ‘Fairy Petticoats’ have an unusual liquorice scent.

Edible: The round-oval drupaceous fruits are a stunning shade of bright blue, and resemble small (1cm long) olives.

Aboriginal name: None found

Source: Wombat Gully Nursery

Bush - blueberry ash

Blue tongue – Melastoma affine (2)

Alternate names: Native Lasiandra

Growth: Blue Tongue flowers continually throughout spring and summer, producing showy mauve to purple flowers that last just a few days before small black berries begin to appear. This hardy evergreen prefers part shade, and will need protection from hot winds and hot afternoon sun in the summer. Ensure a rich, moist soil that drains freely.

Edible: The Blue Tongue gets its name from its sweet, blue-black fruits that stain the mouth. This sweet fruit is best eaten fresh off the shrub, and offers a fun and messy novelty for children.

Aboriginal name: Dhumulu (Yolngu)

Source: Beach Tree Nursery

Bush - blue tongue

Bottle Brush – Callistemon citrinus (10+)

Growth: It is an evergreen shrub growing to 4.5 m at a medium rate. It is in flower from Jul to August. Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry moist or wet soil and can tolerate drought.

Edible: Indigenous peoples used the flowers for an energy drink – the flowers were soaked in water to make a sweet drink from the nectar. If this drink is allowed to ferment, it produces Gep, an intoxicating liquor. The leaves are a tea substitute and have a delightfully refreshing flavour.

Aboriginal name: Kwowdjard (Nyungar)

Source: Various, some inherited…

Comment: We have quite a few different Bottle Brush species, some inherited, some planted, some growing well, some surviving and some battling…

Burdekin plum – Pleiogynium timorense (2)

Alternate names: Tulip plum

Growth: This close relative of the Mango is a native tropical rainforest tree. The burdekin plum is exceptionally hardy and can cope with long dry periods once it is established. It does however prefer free draining soil and lots of sunshine to perform well.

Edible: The deep purple fleshy plum-like fruits need to be held for some days to soften and mellow. Early settlers (probably taught by the Aborigines) were known to bury them in the ground which had the effect of softening them and increasing palatability. The fruit can be eaten raw, or used in wines, jams and jellies.

Aboriginal name: None found?

Source: Beach Tree Nursery

Bush - Burdekin plum

Bush Cherry – Syzygium austral (2)

Alternate names: Brush cherry, Lilly Pilly, previously known as Eugenia

Growth: It is a shrub growing to 3m. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs). Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Edible: In summer, it produces edible red berries that are apple-like in texture with a mild sweetness. They may be eaten freshly picked from the tree, or made into jams, jellies, muffins, biscuits, cakes and wine.

Medicinal: A pulp made from the fruit was applied to sore ears.

Aboriginal name: Wanduin (Ganai), Galangara (Dhurga)

Source: Various, most from Beach Tree Nursery

Comment: We also have:

  • Blue Lilly Pilly – Syzygium oleosum (3) and
  • Sunset Lilly Pilly – Syzygium Sunset (3)

Bush - Blue Lilly Pilly

Cinnamon myrtle – Backhousia myrtifolia (1)

Alternate names: Lemon Ironwood, Lemon-scented Myrtle, Sweet Verbena Tree

Growth: The leaves have a pleasant spicy cinnamon-like aroma and flavour. The attractive flowers are creamy coloured and star shaped, followed by star-like capsules. The cinnamon myrtle is well suited to the home garden. Cinnamon myrtle is suitable for full-sun and semi-shade situations. The tree is tolerant of light frosts.

Edible: Leaves can be harvested as sprigs for use in cooking. It’s used in savoury recipes, deserts, confectionary and herbal teas. The main essential oil isolate in cinnamon myrtle is elemicin, which is also a significant flavouring component in common nutmeg.

Medicinal: A potential substitute for bay leaf

Aboriginal name: None found

Source: Beach Tree Nursery

Bush - cinnamon myrtle

Creeping Boobialla – Myoporum parvifolium (24)

Alternate names: Creeping Myoporum or Dwarf Native Myrtle

Growth: It is a low, spreading shrub with long, trailing stems and white, star-shaped flowers.  It prefers a well-drained, sunny position but is hardy in most situations.

Edible: The fruit is an edible, round purplish drupe that is between 4-6 mm in diameter

Source: Wombat Gully Nursery

Drooping She-oak – Allocasuarina verticillata (2)

Growth: It is an evergreen tree growing to 10m. It can fix Nitrogen. Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

Edible: The soft young cones were eaten

Medicinal: Mature cones were powdered up for medicine for sores and rheumatism, and bark and wood extracts were also used medicinally.

Boomerangs, 10,000 years old, made from this tree were found in a swamp in South Australia a few years ago.

Aboriginal name: Brakbruk (Lake Hindmarsh), Dulwa.

Source: Otway Indigenous Nursery

Emu bush – Eremophila nivea (6)

Alternative names: Poverty bush, Fuchsia Bush, Tar Bush, Turpentine Bush

Growth:  beautiful silvery foliaged shrub with purple tubular flowers in spring and summer. A good plant for drier areas, as it will be short lived in more humid areas. Needs good drainage and a sunny spot. A very beautiful silver-grey foliaged shrub that loves drier conditions. Purple, tubular flowers appear in spring and summer. Makes an excellent feature plant (in the ground or in a pot) or screening plant. Will grow happily in coastal conditions and is resistant to drought.

Medicinal: Concoctions of emu bush leaves were used by Northern Territory Aboriginal tribes to wash sores and cuts; occasionally it was gargled. In the last decade, leaves from the plant were found to have the same strength as some established antibiotics. South Australian scientists want to use the plant for sterilising implants, such as artificial hips.

Aboriginal name: None found

Source: PlantInspirations

Finger Lime – Citrus australasica (2)

Growth: A delicate rainforest tree that naturally occurs as an understorey tree; a native citrus prized for its unique and attractive colour, which can vary between yellow, green, pale pink and crimson. Erect trees growing up to 10 metres. It’s supposed to be able to handle frost.

Edible: The fruits can be green and cylindrical in shape, up to 100mm long and only about 20-30mm in diameter. They do have prominent thorns and do contain some seeds. When bitten, these pearls explode in a juicy sweet, refreshing burst. This fruit is great in summer drinks and desserts, and may also be used in chutneys, jams and marmalades.

Medicinal: Vitamin A – antioxidant, protecting cells against various diseases, even cancer; to improve their vision. Potassium – combat high blood pressure; prohibit kidney stones avoid breast colon, and prostate cancer. Vitamin D – formation of stronger teeth and bones; keeping blood count in check.

Aboriginal name: Gulalung (Bundjalung)

Source: Wombat Gully Nursery and Telopea Mountain Nursery

Comment: We had a few – literally only a few – of these delicious fruits last autumn, but then it got such a knock with the winter frost, it’s currently hanging on a thread trying to recover.

Gumbi Gumbi – Pittosporum Phylliraeoides (5)

Alternate names: Weeping Pittosporum, Western Pittosporum, Cumbi Cumbi, Berrigan, Bitter Bush, Cheesewood, Snotty Gobbles, Native Willow or Native Apricot

Growth: A drought hardy weeping tree that can grow to 12 metres, with long and slender leaves to 10cm.

Edible: The fruit changes from green to yellow/orange and when ripe splits open with red sticky seeds. The seeds were ground for flour.

Medicinal: An infusion of the seeds, fruit pulp, leaves or wood was ingested for the relief of pain and cramps. Decoction of the fruits was drunk and applied for eczema and pruritus. Bush medicine for colds, cramps, itching. It is said to have anti-cancer properties too.

Source: One was given to us by our neighbour Graeme, and 4 from Beach Tree Nursery.

Bush - gumbi gumbi

Hop Goodenia – Goodenia ovata (2)

Alternate names: Native primrose, Hunger weed, Parrot’s food

Growth: Colonising plant. Small hardy scrambling shrub to 2m high which sends out many branches from the base of the plant. It may get to about 2m in diameter. Bright yellow 5 lobed flowers appear in spring and continue on into the summer. The flowers appear in a leafy terminal raceme. Small white seeds (like a sesame seed) mature mostly in late December, which are held in a tube which, as the seed matures, splits open at the end as it dries out. Sometimes the foliage is rather sticky.

Medicinal: An infusion of leaves and twigs has been shown to have possible anti-diabetic properties as scientists have isolated ursolic acid in hop goodenia.  Aboriginal mothers gave an infusion of the leaves to their babies to make them go to sleep. The sticky leaves of hop goodenia have soporific qualities. For long journeys, aboriginal women would rub the leaves on their own fingers for their babies to suckle inducing peacefulness and sleep.

Aboriginal name: None found

Source: Otway Indigenous Nursery

Bush - Hop goodenia 

Kangaroo Apple – Solanum laciniatum and Solanum aviculare (1)

Growth: It grows easily from seed and often appears in home gardens, being spread by birds. As a fast-growing species, hardy in most soil types and conditions, except salt spray, it is ideally suited as a screen plant, in the understorey of a wind break, or for bank and erosion stabilisation. It has also been used in soils with a high concentration of heavy metals when reclaiming mine wastes. These are earlier colonisers of cleared or disturbed areas, such as roadways.

Edible: The fruits of several species of Solanum were eaten by Koories. The fruits can be poisonous until they are soft-ripe, and some species are more poisonous than others. It’s ripe when the outer skin bursts. Best harvested once it has fallen from the plant, the fruit will then have lost its unpleasant acidity. It tastes much worse than it looks, the fruit is sickly sweet and often bitter.

Medicinal: The fruit was used as a poultice on swollen joints. A source of steroids, much used in the pharmaceutical industry as raw material for the manufacture of contraceptives. They supposedly contain an alkaloid which was used by aborigines as a contraceptive – by causing an abortion (some posts state not that successful). For non-pregnant women, this probably means that it disrupts the menstrual cycle, causing an extra period of bleeding.

Aboriginal name: Meakitch (Lake Condah), Mookitch, Mayakitch (Gunditjmara)

Source: We inherited this one on Dreamland.

Bush - kangaroo apple

Large Leaf Tamarind – Diploglottis australis (1)

Alternate names: Native tamarind

Growth: A slender, palm-like gully tree that bears sweet, tart fruits prolifically each season. Creamy brown flowers form in spring, maturing from October to January. The Large Leaf Tamarind may be grown in full sun or part shade, as long as it’s sheltered from strong winds and frosts. It prefers moist soil throughout the year, but can thrive in a range of soil types under most pH conditions.

Edible: The fleshy yellow-orange fruit is sour to taste, but like the Asian Tamarind, may be enjoyed raw or processed into jams, jellies, sauces, candies and drinks.

Source: Beach Tree Nursery

Bush - native tamarind

Lemon Myrtle – Backhousia citriodora (1)

Alternate names:

Growth: This small, densely foliaged rainforest tree makes an excellent screening or specimen plant. It will grow in sun or shade and may be a little slow in its early stages. It has opposite, mid-green leaves, 5-10cm long, which have a wonderful lemon fragrance when crushed or even brushed against. In spring the tree is massed with heads of white flowers with numerous fluffy stamens. It grows up to 3 metres high, with graceful hanging branches of soft green leaves. The clusters of cream feathery flowers occur in autumn, creating a spectacular fragrant display.

Edible: sometimes referred to as the “Queen of the Lemon Herbs”, it boasts an intensely citrus fragrance and flavour, and has long been used in Aboriginal cuisine and medicine. Lemon Myrtle’s fresh tangy leaves may be used in teas, syrups, glazes, cakes, biscuits, dressings, sauces, ice creams, dips and meat dishes.

Medicinal: Essential oil distilled from the leaves has a refreshing lemony scent, and has been found to have antifungal and antibacterial properties.

Source: Diggers Club

Comments: Ours took quite a knock with the last winter’s frost and it was planted in a dry open area where it competed with Kikuyu roots. It has recently been transplanted to “the Corner” where it will be looked after much better…

Macadamia Nut – Macadamia integrifolia (2)

Growth: a small to large tree that bears decorative trusses of cream flowers, followed by edible, nutritious nuts.

Edible: The nut, with a smooth hard green shell about 2.5cm in diameter are edible and delicious, either raw or roasted.

Medicinal: The oil from the nuts can be prepared into a soothing skin lotion. When host to bees, the honey has antibacterial properties.

Aboriginal name: Kindal

Source: Diggers Club and Telopea Mountain Nursery

Bush - Macadamia

Midyim Berries – Austromyrtus dulcis (8)

Alternate names: Midgen Berry or Sand Berry

Growth: A hardy spreading shrub with arching branches of green foliage and coppery new growth. This shrub bears small white, purple-speckled berries in profusion throughout late summer and early autumn. The midyim berry grows in full sun or part shade, growing densely to about 40 cm in full sun and as a more open ground cover if planted in the shade. In climates outside its natural range, it is best located under some overhanging tree branches to give some protection from frost.

Edible: Among the most delicious of all the bush tucker plants, similar in taste and appearance to the blueberry; a favourite among the Aboriginal people. Berries are sweet and tangy, and may be eaten fresh or used in pies and preserves.

Medicinal: The berries provide calcium, iron, vitamin C and dietary fibre.

It’s supposed to be very hardy, but ours is really taking its time getting established.

Aboriginal name: Midgen

Source: Various, a large new batch from Beach Tree Nursery

Bush - midyim berry

Mountain Pepper – Tasmannia lanceolate (1 male, 1 female)

Alternate names: Tasmanian pepper, Native pepper, Pepperberry, Pepperleaf

Growth: It is an evergreen shrub growing to 4.5 m at a slow rate. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown. Only the female bears fruit. The fruit is berry like and starts off dark red in colour and turns black on ripening. Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland). It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

Edible: The fruit and seed are used as a pepper and allspice substitute. A pungent flavour. The aromatic berries are edible according to one report, whilst another says that they taste somewhat like cinnamon. The leaves can be used for cooking and preserving foods. The berries can be used fresh, dried or milled as a spice. The leaves can be added to olive oil to make a dressing for salads. It can be used as a marinade or seasoning for roasted meats and vegetables. It adds an interesting flavour to dukkah, hummus and other dips.

Medicinal: The unripe berries were used as a medicine on sores and rashes. Aborigines suffering from sore gums and tooth aches often crushed the berries with water to make a paste and applied the paste to treat the infection. It has a high antioxidant capacity, linked to preventing or delaying cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s, autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases. Both the leaf and the berry contains vitamin E, lutein (a compound that plays an important role in eye health and wellbeing), zinc, magnesium, and calcium. The berry contains the compound polygodial, which can be used as an anti-inflammatory for issues such as arthritis, asthma and assisting in healing gut irritability .The polygodial properties protect the stomach lining from pathogens, diseases and inflammatory markers. The berries and leaf are also used to assist in the slow absorption of glucose from the stomach,  allowing stabilization of blood sugar levels

Source: Beach Tree Nursery

Bush - mountain pepper

Muntries – Kunzea pomifera (10)

Alternate names: emu apples or native cranberries

Growth: This is a low growing shrub found on the south coast of Australia.  Muntries can be grown on a trellis to make the fruits easier to pick. This woody plant bears clusters of green berries that turn purplish/red and fragrant as they ripen. Muntries seem to prefer well drained soil.

Edible: When ripe the berries are green with a red tinge and have the flavour of spicy apples. Berries are about 1cm in diameter and crunchy in texture with the flavour of a spicy apple. Perfect for eating raw in salads and cheese platters, or cooked in jams, pies, muffins, puddings or with meats. They contain up to four times more antioxidants than blueberries.

Medicinal: The wood was boiled and the cooled infusion was used to bathe sore eyes. It was also used to treat malaria. The berries provide natural waxes that are good for skin nourishment.

Aboriginal name: Ngurp (Bunganditi, VIC & SA)

Source: Beach Tree Nursery

Walk - muntries coreo plumbago

Native Gardenia – Atractocarpus fitzalanii (1)

Alternate names: Yellow Mangosteen

Growth: Usually a small understory tree seldom exceeding 30cm, blaze sometimes marked by red speckles. In spring, the Native Gardenia blossoms with white, beautifully fragrant, star-shaped flowers. These later turn into brown fruit that ripens slowly over winter, turning yellow when ready for harvest.

Edible: Considered to be good bush tucker by the Aboriginal people. Its hard-shelled fruits are 6-7cm in diameter, containing a pale, soft and sweet segmented fruit with many small white seeds. Similar to a mangosteen in size, shape and flavour, they may be enjoyed raw on their own or used in salads, tarts, cakes and other desserts

Source: Beach Tree Nursery

Bush - native gardenia

Native Guava – Eupomatia laurina (1)

Alternate names: Copper laurel

Growth: It is a large spreading understory shrub, often multi-trunked, with glossy, dark green leaves, 6-12 cm long, on slender zig-zag arching branches. The foliage takes on red-bronze tones in the cooler weather of winter and spring. It grows to about 3 to 5 metres in height. In spring and summer the cream, daisy-like flowers, 2.5 cm in diameter, appear in the leaf axils all along the stems. They have a distinctive ether-like perfume and each flower only lasts one day. The flower bud has a cap like a eucalyptus. There are two or three rings of many stamens and several rings of petal-like staminodes surrounding a central disc containing numerous stigmas. These flowers are pollinated by small brown weevils which are attracted by the peculiar ether-like perfume.

Edible: The fruit is green and urn-shaped, 2-3 cm in diameter, and the sweet creamy pulp is edible, but full of seeds, rather like a guava. Fruits ripen in winter and are ready to eat when they are soft to squeeze. They are sweet aromatic, often used as a spice-food in cooking, and can be used in beverages, jams and jellies. They are quite good to eat raw, although the seeds are a bit of a nuisance.

Aboriginal name: Bolwarra

Source: Beach Tree Nursery

Bush - native guava

Old man salt bush – Atriplex nummularia (2)

Alternate names: Cabbage Saltbush, Bluegreen or Giant Saltbush

Growth: Old Man Saltbush is a fast-growing sprawling grey-blue shrub, up to 3 metres high and sometimes spreading to 5 metres wide, commonly used today as a livestock grazing plant. It is a long living plant, growing strongly after periods of summer rain, producing long tassels of flowering seed heads. Though Saltbush tolerates drought, salinity and sandy soil in the wild, young plants will struggle to establish in conditions that are too dry and barren. Choose a rich and loamy, but free-draining soil, and water well in the weeks after first planting. Saltbush is suitable for full sun and part shade, Old man saltbush is relatively frost tolerant but some leaf damage can occur, but protect from hard frosts. Leaves are grey-green, small (2-3cm) and irregularly shaped, but will grow larger and more vegetable-like in hothouse conditions.

Edible: Traditionally, its seeds were used as a food source by the Aboriginal people. The leaves are also edible, salty in flavour and rich in protein, antioxidants and minerals. Old Man Saltbush leaves may be treated like a leafy vegetable, enjoyed blanched, sautéed, wrapped around meat or fish, used in salads, or for stuffing poultry. Alternatively, they may be dried and used as a herb or sprinkle.

Medicinal: The leaves are boiled then dabbed on open wounds, boils, scabies and cold sores. It was taken by early settlers to treat scurvy and blood diseases.

Aboriginal name: None found?

Source: Beach Tree Nursery

Bush - old man saltbush

Peanut Tree – Sterculia quadrifida (1)

Alternate names: Red-fruited Kurrajong

Growth: A leafy rainforest species, in the same family as hibiscus and cacao, which produces edible black seeds resembling peanuts in taste. It does best in full sun and well-drained soil with plenty of water and mulch. It will tolerate poor sandy soil. It grows quickly, producing light grey bark and dark green heart-shaped leaves in a spreading canopy. In cooler regions, you may notice leaf drop during the winter. It makes an excellent shade tree that attracts birds and pollinating insects.

Edible: Attractive bright orange/red seed pods, when ripe, split open to reveal a few black oval seeds (nuts) that may be eaten raw or roasted once the paper-like skin is removed. Like peanuts, they make a great snack by themselves or as a sprinkle for ice cream, salads and other dishes.

Medicinal: The leaves of the Peanut Tree aren’t edible, but were used by Aboriginals to treat wounds and stings.

Aboriginal names: Dundil (Larrakia), Malikini (Tiwi), Balkpalk (Yolngu)

Source: Beach Tree Nursery

Bush - peanut tree

Plum pine – Podocarpus elatus (4)

Alternate names: Brown pine, Illawarra Plum

Growth: It is a medium-sized to large evergreen tree growing to 30-40 m tall (less in cultivation) with a trunk up to 1.5 m diameter. The bark of this tree is dark brown, flaky and finely furrowed. Leaves are dark green, shiny, narrow and very tough with sharp tips, alternately arranged and around 4-18 cm long, discolourous (paler underside). It is moderately frost tolerant.

Edible: The fruit or seed cones are composed of two segments: a fleshy, purple-black, seedless base or ‘modified stalk’ about 2.5 cm in diameter; and a hard, globose, inedible seed about 1 cm in diameter. The Plum Pine has edible grape like fruit. The vivid purple fruit has a plum/pine flavour which is primarily harvested in the wild. It has a resinous flavour and a high Vitamin C content and can be used in jams, jellies, tarts and cakes.

Medicinal: The fruit contains appreciable quantities of sticky sugars which are hugely beneficial to the gastrointestinal tract.  The antioxidant level is seven times that of blueberries.

Aboriginal name(s): Daalgaal and Gidneywallum

Source: Telopea Mountain Nursery and Beach Tree Nursery

Prickly Currant Bush – Coprosma quadrifida (2)

Alternate names: Native Currant

Growth: This ‘weedy’ and prevalent native prickly, slender, open, upright shrub, 2-4m high, has very small, crowded shiny olive-green leaves. It grows in damp sites in woodland, sclerophyll forest and cool-temperate rainforest, usually along creeks. It likes a protected, semi-shaded position in moist soil. It accepts poor drainage and seasonal waterlogging to 10cm deep, but it is drought sensitive.

Edible: In Dec-Feb it bears small red globular edible berries, which are sweet and slightly astringent and can be eaten raw or used in cooking. The flavour is sweet and resembles a raspberry

Aboriginal name: Morr (Coranderrk, Woi wurrung)

Source: Otway Indigenous Nursery

Bush - prickly current bush

Portugal Laurel – Prunus lusitanica (2)

Alternate names: Portuguese Cherry Laurel, Evergreen Bay-Tree, Portugal Cypress

Growth: This is actually a cherry, not a true laurel. Unlike other cherries, it is evergreen like a laurel, and the leaves though shaped perfectly like plum leaves are tough and leathery also like laurels. They do not bloom until after new young leaves form in spring, among the previous year’s unfallen leaves. A green dye can be obtained from the leaves. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit.

Edible: It has small purple-red cherries that ripen to shiny black by autumn. The small black cherries resemble choke cherry fruits and are inaccurately regarded as toxic, or have been mistaken for toxic because true laurels are toxic. Portugal Laurels in fact produce edible berries, although they are extremely bitter. They can be cooked for jelly or syrup.

Medicinal: All members of the genus contain amygdalin and prunasin, substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being.

Source: Wombat Gully Nursery

Bush - Portugese laurel

Purslane – Portulaca oleracea (6) + seeds

Gowth: Small prostrate annual herb to 0.5m. The leaves are succulent and the flowers are small and yellow. It is considered a weed in many places.

Edible: Aborigines in Central Australia ate both the seed and the leaves. It is eaten in many countries as a green vegetable or a salad.

Medicinal: The plant is a diuretic and has been used to cleanse the blood.

Aboriginal name: Munyaroo (SA)

Source: Beach Tree Nursery, Eden Seeds

Redback Australian Ginger – Alpinia caerulea (2)

Alternate names: Native Ginger or Ginger ‘Red Back’.

Growth: A shade-loving perennial that prefers a constantly moist soil. A versatile plant traditionally used by the Aboriginal people for food and crafting. A clumping upright plant to 2m tall with striking maroon/red-backed leaves. Leaves are large and shiny. It is very hardy due to underground rhizomes which are non-invasive. Fragrant white flowers appear from late spring to early summer, eventually leaving blue berries that may be picked and eaten straight off the stem.

Edible: Both the spicy root and bright blue fruit may be eaten. The ginger-scented rhizome may be used, like other ginger roots, in savoury dishes, desserts, jams, marmalades, candies and tea. Though the seeds should not be eaten, the berries have a pleasant lemony ginger flavour and were often eaten by Aboriginal nomads to moisten the mouth during long walkabouts.

Medicinal: The Redback Australian Ginger’s large leaves were traditionally cut and used in thatch shelters and as food wrappings during cooking.

Source: Beach Tree Nursery

Bush - red back ginger

River mint – Mentha australis (2)

Alternate names: Wild mint

Growth: Creeping herb with small tapered leaves, with the flowers blooming at leaf junctions. It grows along the edges of streams and rivers. It loves moisture and shade, and does best in boggy soil. However, it can be grown in dry areas, in sun or shade, with extra watering and plenty of organic matter in the soil. The leaves have a spearmint aroma and flavour.

Edible: A much stronger mint than normal peppermint or spearmint, hence a flavoring for cooked food.

Medicinal: It was crushed and inhaled to treat coughs and colds. It makes an interesting mint tea, which is reputedly good for easing the effects of colds. The crushed leaves were sniffed to relieve headache. Used as an insect repellent.

Aboriginal name: Poang-gurk (Djab wurrung, Tjapwurong)

Source: Beach Tree Nursery

Bush - River mint

Ruby salt bush – Enchylaena tomentosa (2)

Growth: It likes loamy and slightly saline soils by the coast in semi-arid areas. Found in salt marshes and rocky headlands as well as in arid zones inland. It is a very hardy, woody, low-growing shrub with fleshy green leaves that are covered in fine white hairs. It prefers full sun but will also grow in dappled shade. It handles most soil and weather conditions; a healthy plant will survive saline soil, sandy soil, long droughts and even some frost.

Edible: Red or pink button-shaped small, about 5mm in diameter berries can be picked and eaten – they are crisp, sweet and succulent with a salty-sweet flavour. The fruits can be soaked in water and the liquid drunk like sweetened tea. Leaves can be cooked like spinach, but they are rich in oxalates so they should not be eaten in quantity.

Medicinal: The plant is antiscorbutic

Aboriginal name: Gurgudj (Wemba Wemba)

Source: Beach Tree Nursery

Bush - Ruby saltbush

Running Postman – Kennedia prostrata (10)

Alternate names: Scarlet runner

Growth: A prostrate ground cover that grows to 2m wide, with red pea flowers. This species grows in acid to alkaline conditions, is moderately frost tolerant, and can be trimmed if necessary. It flowers from winter through to early summer, depending on the area. This is also a great nitrogen fixer – we use it for that purpose in some of our apple and pear guilds.

Edible: Its scarlet pea-type flowers are sucked to extract sweet nectar.

Aboriginal name: Nall Kabin Gunditjmara (Coranderrk)

Source: Otway Indigenous Nursery and Beach Tree Nursery

Bush - running postman

Silver Banksia – Banksia marginate (2)

Growth: It is a small, compact, much-branched tree with rough grey bark. Lemon flower spikes. Wind firm and frost resistant, grows in full sun to part shade. Good drainage required. Understorey in windbreaks, ornamental, sand drift, bird attracting.

Edible: The flower-cones were soaked in water to make a sweet drink, and the dry cones were used as strainers.

Aboriginal name: Woorike (Wurundjeri),  warock (Jardwadjali),  pitpauwe (Kaurna),  tangan (Tasmania)

Source: Wombat Gully Nursery

Bush - Banksia

Small leaved tamarind – Diploglottis campbelli (2)

Growth: This small evergreen tree can be expected to reach 7-8m in an open garden environment providing a beautiful rich green spreading crown. As a mature tree, it will capture the eye with its interesting fruit from which the bright red-coated seeds emerge in mid-summer. It prefers part shade and a well-drained soil.

Edible: Small, cream-brown flowers in November to January, turning to large (up to 6cm across) yellow-brown bulbs in February and April. These bulbs will split open when ripe, revealing the bright red flesh of the Small-leaved Tamarind fruit. The flavour is refreshingly tart with a distinctive taste that lends well to both sweet and savoury dishes. Recipe favourites include jams, jellies, sauces, fruit chutneys, spreads and coulis. It also makes a great accompaniment for cheeses and cold meats.

Aboriginal name: None found

Source: Beach Tree Nursery

Bush - small leaf tamarind

Tea Tree – Leptospermum species: (18)

We have the following species:

  • Manuka Tea Tree – Leptospermum scoparium
  • Copper Glow Sheen Tea Tree – Leptospermum polygalifolium (Bush or Lemon-Scented Tea Tree)
  • Lavender Queen Tea Tree – Leptospermum rotundifolium

Growth: Plants in the genus Leptospermum range in size from prostrate shrubs to small trees and have fibrous, flaky or papery bark. The leaves are arranged alternately and are relatively small, rigid and often aromatic when crushed. The flowers may be solitary or in groups and have bracteoles and sepals which in most species fall off as the flower opens. There are five spreading, conspicuous petals which are white, pink or red. There are many stamens which are usually shorter than the petals and in five groups opposite the stamens, although they often appear to not be grouped. A simple style usually arises from a small depression in the ovary which has from three to five sections in most species, each section containing a few to many ovules. The fruit is a woody capsule which opens at the top to release the seeds, although in some species this does not occur until the plant, or the part of it, dies.

Medicinal: The aromatic leaves were used for medicine. The nectar from the flowers is harvested by bees; this is used to make Leptospermum honey. Honey produced from Australian Leptospermum polygalifolium, also known as jelly bush or the lemon-scented tea tree, has been found to contain up to 1750 mg/kg of ‘methylglyoxal’ (MGO), an antibacterial compound. However, after neutralization of this compound, the “manuka” honey retains bactericidal activity. Methylglyoxal thus does not appear to be the main contributor to the antimicrobial and antibacterial activities. Bundjalung Aboriginal people from the coast of New South Wales crushed tea-tree (or paper bark) leaves and applied the paste to wounds as well as brewing it to a kind of tea for throat ailments. In the 1920s, scientific experiments proved that the tea-tree oil’s antiseptic potency was far stronger than the commonly used antiseptic of the time. Since then, the oil has been used to treat everything from fungal infections of the toenails to acne. The oil from the crushed Tea Tree leaves was also used for the treatment of other skin ailments, including relief from Dermatitis, Thrush (Candida),
psoriasis, respiratory ailments, and many other similar topical treatments.Lemon Tea Tree Oil, although only occurring in small tracts of coastal swamp land, was revered by the Aboriginal people for its strong insect repelling properties. With modern science we now know that Lemon Tea Tree contains citronella, a proven insect repellent

Aboriginal name: Kallara

Source: Plant inspirations

White Elderberry – Sambucus gaudichaudiana (1)

Alternate names:

Growth: This species is found in cool shaded places. White Elderberry grows 0.6–2 m tall and 0.5–1.5 m wide. In cultivation this perennial herbaceous herb does best in well-drained soil but it can also tolerate moist shady areas. It will die down over winter, however underground tuber stores energy and plant will bounce back in spring. Produces fragrant white flowers and small sweet berries. Can grow up to 2 metres. (The European Elderberry has black fruits.)

Edible: The small creamy-white fruits are eaten raw. Add water to dried berries to create beautiful, sweet aromas.

Aboriginal name: Burne Burne (Lake Condah, Djabwurrung), Garawed (Gunaikurnai)

Source: Lou’s Bloomin’ Garden

Other plants

We also have a few other plants that are listed on some bush tucker sites, but I question their edibility:

  • Australian Indigo – Indigofera australis (3): The roots could be used as a fish poison, the leaves can contain cyanide. The leaves were also used as a medicine for skin complaints.
  • Cypress Pines (also called Murray Pines) – Callitris gracilis, and Callitris verrucosa: The resin from these native conifers was used to cement stone axes, and the wood was used for womeras (spear-throwers), spears and canoe poles. Teething sticks for babies were made from the resinous wood. We have inherited it as a windbreak on Dreamland.
  • Melaleuca alternifolia: The papery bark of this and other Melaleuca species was used to wrap babies, as a fishing float, for bandages and to wrap food for cooking. The leaves were medicinal, the wood was used for spears and digging sticks.

Wish list

We are also still looking for the following:

  • Quandong – Santalum acuminatum: This shrub or small tree to 8m is a hemi-parasite requiring macro-nutrients from the roots of hosts. The host should be surface rooted, evergreen, water storing, nutrient storing and with a high osmotic pressure. Olives, acacias and most Australian natives are good hosts. The more trees and shrubs and groundcovers you have in your yard as host plants the happier the Santalum will be. Drought and salt tolerant. The leaves are distinctly grey-green and are leathery and variable in size. The flowers are small, white, and occur in clusters at the ends of branchlets. The greenish or yellow fruit is about 3cm in diameter and becomes bright red when ripe. The flavour is tart and reminiscent of peach, apricot or rhubarb. It is high in vitamin C and various minerals, and is made into jams, pies, or eaten raw. Inside the hard stone of the fruit is an oily seed which in Central Australia was ground up into a medicinal cream for the scalp. The root was ground and an infusion was drunk to treat rheumatism. The leaves were crushed and a poultice was made to treat sores and boils. Aboriginal names: Bidjigal (Lake Hindmarsh), Quandong (Wiradhuri NSW)
  • Apple-berries – Billardiera species: There are three species in Victoria, the fruits of which were eaten. Common Apple-berry – Billardiera scandens, is common in southern Victoria, Sweet Apple-berry – Billardiera cymosa, is found in drier areas; Purple Apple-berry – Billardiera longiflora, occurs in mountain gullies. Aboriginal name: Garawang (Wurundjeri) Bomula or Karrawang. (These are on order for spring)
  • Sandpaper Fig – Ficus coronate: Also called Creek Fig. The rough leaves were used as sandpaper, the sap was applied to wounds. The edible fig is between 1 and 2cm in diameter and is dark purple when ripe. A poultice is made from the bark too. The purple-black fruit are edible and sweet, once the hairy skin has been removed. The milky sap of young stems can be applied to wounds to promote healing. It has been used in the treatment of ring worm.
  • Kurrajong – Brachychiton populneus: Usually found in drier areas. Leaves tend to be 3 or 5 lobed with a weeping form. The tree produces red flowers, which are followed by a brown leathery pod. The pods split to reveal a group of seeds, which are best removed with a stick due to the irritating hairs. The seed is quite nutritious and nutty in flavour.

 

 

 

 

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