Tjapukai’s Plants Reveal Ancient Secrets

November 03 2015

Every plant has a story at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park.

At Tjapukai descendants of the land’s traditional Djabugay people share the secrets of their rainforest environment. Tjapukai performer Richard Bing, whose Djabugay name is Djundjurru meaning short nosed bandicoot, is one of the guides who shows guests the Guided Bush Food Trail.

Richard needed no training for the role having learnt about bush foods from his grandfather while he was growing up in Kuranda.

“The nuts of the badil or cycad grow to the size of the golf ball in a bunch of 12 to 15 and when they ripen they are orange and look good to eat, but are poisonous unless they are processed the right way,” he tells visitors.

“The ladies have to roast it first before they grate it and leave it in a dilly bag in running water, checking it every day to see that the poison is draining out.

“Then they grind it down to fine powder so they can make dough for bread. They do the same with the black bean and yellow walnut.

“The Burdekin plum you can eat straight away once it has ripened or if it’s not ripe bury it underground for a few days to ripen it for eating.”

He also talks about the usefulness of plants such as the sandpaper fig tree which, as its name suggests, is useful for sanding wooden artefacts such as boomerangs and spears.

Its leaves and sap were used by the Aboriginal people as a treatment for ringworm and sunspots. Other types of figs are useful to make string, ropes and weapons and their fruit is a tasty treat.


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