Traditional Aboriginal Uses for Plants Of The Eurobodalla

Nature - Snake Whistle
Nature - Native Paperbark
Nature - Lilly Pilly
Nature - Fairy Tree
Nature - Australian Natural Flora

Many of the plants used by the Australian Aboriginals grow in the grounds of the Original Gold Rush Colony in Mogo on the NSW South Coast. The Colony has a "Bush Tucker" garden where Aboriginal usage of plants is demonstrated and explained to School Groups and other interested groups as part of the Koorie Culture educational programs.

Plants primarily provided an important source of food and medicines, but had many other uses as well.

The Australian Aboriginals lived in harmony with the environment and used plants' seasonal variations to indicate what other foods would be available. Plants could also be used to provide material for tools such as traps, nets, weapons, digging sticks and containers or to provide safety.

In this list of plants, we have chosen to list by common name, then botanical name, then the Dhurga name, or its local name. Dhurga is the primary language of the traditional custodians of the Eurobodalla Region of Southern New South Wales Australia.

South Coast NSW Bush Tucker Plants

Common Name

Botanical Name

Dhurga Name

Black Wattle Accacia Mearnsil Birdhudh

Traditional Aboriginal Usage: The gum can be chewed as a treat or mixed with water to make jelly. The seeds from the green pods are a calmative when eaten in small doses.

When the tree flowered, it would signal that blackfish would be biting. The flowers were crushed and ground into a paste which when added to small fish pools, would reduce the oxygen in the water and stun the fish long enough for them to be easily harvested.

Bark was used to tan leather. It was also used to make rope, fishing line or treat string.

Bull roarers were made from the light strong wood.

Roots at the base of the treetrunk were used to make boomerangs because of the angle they grow at.

These wattle trees are often full of yellowtail black cockatoos who eat the witchetty grubs. Both the grubs and birds were also eatem

Black She-oak

Allocasuarina littoralis


Traditional Aboriginal Usage: Thirst can be alleviated by chewing the foliage or young cones

Weapons such as boomerangs, clubs and shields and tools can be made from the hardwood.

Snakes are reputed to avoid the area under she-oaks because they do not like the carpet of foliage with its needle-like prickles.  Children were able to be left in these areas, safe from snake attack.


Pteridium esculentum


Traditional Aboriginal Usage: Tightly curled young fronds have a nutty walnut flavour. The may be eaten raw or roasted. Older fronds contain toxins and should be avoided.

Rhizomes (underground stems) need to be cooked to remove toxins. They may be beaten into a paste and cooked in hot ashes, or roasted whole.

Skin irritations such as insect bites and stings, and stings from stinging nettle can be relieved by crushing young frond stems to release the sap which is then rubbed on the affected area.


Macrozamia Communis


Traditional Aboriginal Usage: The nuts or yibur have to be treated to remove the toxins before being used as a starchy food source.

There are two methods of treatment: Bury the nuts till they start to grow mould, or remove the outer coating, crush and place in bags which then need to be suspended in runing water for a few days. When fish nibble at the bags, the crushed nuts are considered safe to pound into a pulp and use as roasted cakes.

Leaves may be woven into mats or used to make shelters.

Cherry Ballart

Exocarpus Cupressiformis


Traditional Aboriginal Usage: The fruit like "cherry" stalk is eaten when it ripens to dark red and sweat.  the smaller related plant  Exocarpus strictus has a pale pink fruit.

Trunk wood was used to make weapons

This tree had important ceremonial and spiritual purposes

Coast Banksia

Banksia Integrifolia

Bird Trap

Traditional Aboriginal Usage: The rich nectar can be released from the flowers by soaking them in water to make a sweet drink.

Large honeyeater birds attracted by the nectar could be trapped for food. (hence the local name of Bird Trap)

A dry seed cone still attached to its branch would be used to "carry" fire in the practice of fire-stick farming using an embedded glowing ember in the cone.

Grass Tree

Xanthorrhoea spp

Mingo/Kangaroo Tail

 Traditional Aboriginal Usage: The rich nectar in the tiny white flowers would be licked and eaten. A sweet drink could be made by soaking the flower stalk in water

Seeds from the flower stalk can be collected and crushed into flour.

The white leaf bases could be eaten cooked or raw

The soft wood from the the flower spike can be used as the base for a fire drill, and the stalk could be used to make the shaft for a light-weight spear.

Resin from the trunk can be melted to make a strong adhesive for binding materials together, e.g. a sharp stone to a spear shaft or axe handle ot fish hooks to a fishing line (made from black wattle inner bark). Resin could also be used as a waterproofing agent. It dries very hard.

Lilly Pilly

Acmena Smithii


 Traditional Aboriginal Usage: The fleshy fruit is eaten raw.

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

Native Grape

Cissus Hypoglauca

Native Grape

 Traditional Aboriginal Usage: The purple/black berries may be boiled to make jam or syrup. They ripen in autumn

Paroo Lily

Dianella Caerulea

Snake Whistle

 Traditional Aboriginal Usage:The bright blue/purple berries are eaten.  They ripen in late summer

Leaves were collected, dried and then soaked to weave into mats, or stripped to make rope. The leaf can also be used to make a whistle with a pitch similar to a wren's call. Snakes would be attracted to the bird sound, and could then be caught for food.

Sandpaper Fig

Ficus Coronata

 Traditional Aboriginal Usage: The small fruit may be eaten raw

The abrasive leaves are used as sandpaper on wooden implements such as utensils, tools and weapons.


Gahnia spp


 Traditional Aboriginal Usage: A paste could be made out of ground seeds and water to make a type of damper

The white base of the leaf can be chewed as a snack.  The leaves are very sharpo and dangerous and can cause a nasty cut.


Swamp Lily

Crinum Pedunculatum


Traditional Aboriginal Usage: The sap which exudes from the broken leaves is used to sooth skin irritations. It is often found growing near beaches, and is a handy remedy for blue-bottle stings

Spotted Gum

Corymbia Maculata


 Traditional Aboriginal Usage: Leaves may be crushed and soaked in water to be used for medicinal purposes

The wood and bark was used to make dishes, bowls, weapons and tools.

The bark from some eucalypts could be used to make gunyas and canoes.

Bees nest in the tree hollows. Wild honey may be used as a sweet treat.

Paper Bark  or Hillock Bush

Melaleuca hypericifolio

Yuwiya or granite myrtle

 Traditional Aboriginal Usage:

Bark is used to wrap fish or meat before cooking in a ground oven over hot stones. It was also used as bedding material in babies' cradles

Internal Bark tends to stay dry and may be used for tinder on rainy days.

Young leaves may be chewed to treat headaches and colds

Crushed leaves act as a natural insect repellant

A sweet drink can be made by mixing the nectar rich flowers in water





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Further Reading