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Aboriginal Plant Use in SE Australia
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5 Roots, bulbs

Roots were important vegetable foods in the south-east. Here you can see some of the plants whose roots were eaten such as, Bulbine bulbosa (Bulbine Lily), Arthropodium milleflorum (Vanilla Lily), Burchardia umbellata (Milkmaid) and Microseris lanceolata (Murnong or Yam Daisy) formerly known as Microseris scapigera.

Microseris lanceolata

Yam Daisy or Murnong
Microseris lanceolata

Yam Daisy was a most important staple food. Women dug the roots with digging sticks and then roasted them in baskets in an earth oven.

Digging stick

Digging stick made from wattle wood and used by women to dig up roots and tubers.

Dig for some roots! You are turning over the soil and thinning out the root clumps, two ways of encouraging plant production. But remember, don't take the lot or there'll be none for next time!
Aboriginal people believed that the roots of 'murnong' should not be collected before the plants flowered. This was probably because during the drier winter period before springtime flowering, the roots would not be fully developed.

Yam Daisy roots collected in bowl
Yam Daisy roots collected in bowl made of eucalyptus bark.

women digging roots of the Yam Daisy
This drawing by J. H. Wedge (1835) shows women digging roots of the Yam Daisy.
The roots of this plant were an important food source for people of the Port Phillip area, Victoria.
(Drawing used with permission of the State Library of Victoria).

The roots or underground stems of other plants were also eaten.

Burchardia sp.

Burchardia spp.
The long tuberous roots were available all year round and were cooked before eating.

Bulbine sp.

Bulbine Lily.
Bulbine spp.
The edible corm is surrounded by swollen roots. This plant grows on Black Mountain, ACT.

Gastrodia sesamoides

Potato Orchid.
Gastrodia sesamoides
It has a swollen underground stem (rhizome), rich in starch.


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