Kurrajong (Brachychiton) – Traditional Aboriginal usage, food & technology
The Kurrajong or Bottle tree as it is known in the United States (Brachychiton) is a tree which is native to eastern Australia. Its distribution ranges from Townsville in northern Queensland through to the north-east of Victoria. The tree’s name comes from languages found along the New South Wales south coast and the Sydney basin. In the Dhurug language of Sydney the name means “fishing line”.
Kurrajong is traditionally used by Koori people as a food source and for making rope and twine suitable for the production of strong fishing lines and nets. It is also useful in the making of baskets and other woven goods.
The seeds of the Kurrajong may be eaten when roasted, either ground into a flour or consumed without modification. The flowers and roots may also be eaten.
In order to make string from the plant, the strong fibrous bark is stripped from the tree and left to soak in water for several weeks. This allows the fibres to be separated with little effort, so that it can then be woven or spun as required.
In an early reference to the plant’s usage by Europeans, a poet and playwright by the name of Charles Harpur wrote a play in 1853 entitled “The Bushranger”, in which one of the characters informed a bushranger that he would be “kurrajonged”. This was in reference to the titular character being hanged with a rope made from the bark of the kurrajong tree, as had been done to a group of Irish rebels during the Irish convict uprising at Sydney’s Castle Hill in 1798.
The flower shown is that of Brachychiton discolor. The kurrajong of inland Qld, NSW and Vic is Brachychiton populneus and it as a white flower. Damage to its bark yields a sap which dries to form a water soluble gum (Uncle Freddie Dowling Jerilderie). The Qld bottle tree is Brachychiton rupestris.
when the seeds are soaked in water, they produce a clear gum substance, any knowledge of this being used by traditional indigenous people?
Hi Lorraine, it’s an interesting question. Whilst the gum would have been familiar to people, I’ve not located any particular references to its usage. Thanks, John.
The gum from the Kurrajong has been known to be used as a glue. Whether they talk of the water soluble gum I am not certain.
I’ve heard there was once a dwarf form of brachychiton which grew in the central inland Qld areas.
Smaller than B. bidwilli. Does anyone have any knowledge of this Kurrajong plant?