Plant of the Month – August 2014

GRASS TREE or YACCA

(Xanthorrhoea semiplana ssp tateana)

              

   (Photos: old plant, forest of plants; E. Cousins, Cape Jervis)

There are many beautiful yacca specimens on the peninsula… take a walk through Newland Head Conservation Park to see forests of them! Their trunks are made of accumulated leaf bases, not wood, so they are more of a grass than a tree, hence the common name. The yaccas around Cape Jervis have trunks up to 4 metres tall, and flower spikes up to another 2.5 metres on top. Phenomenally slow growth rates mean it takes a long time for a trunk to get to this size though.  Aboriginal peoples used this plant for tools, drinks and navigation: the flowering spike made spears for fishing; the nectar from the flowers for a sweet drink; the side the flowers opened on first to indicate north (sunnier side). The resin was used for glue/adhesives; in fact, the botanical name Xanthorrhoea is from the Greek xanthos, meaning yellow, and rheo, meaning to flow; referring to the resin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.