I was down in Sydney last week & got out to the Royal Botanical Gardens & Centennial Park. There were plenty of colourful & ethereal epiphytes on trees & palms at the RBG but most of them were tied in position. You can see below the zip ties & plastic wiring securing these epiphytes in place. These are neither accidental or naturally occurring but are in a carefully planned and attractive display. Palm trees have plenty of crotches where the old fronds attach to the trunk but I wonder if the guests are regularly maintained by the gardening staff? Ive seen epiphytes like orchids & bromeliads arranged artificially before but you would need a greenhouse to grow them in our climate.
The epiphytes in Centennial park were accidental but none had any size about them certainly not like the TinTs guests here. Those magnificent Moreton bay figs are home to many things including the occasional powerful owl. Some of the epiphytes living in them look like young Moreton bay figs – an ‘own goal’ perhaps? Whether they come from the same tree or other trees isn’t known. This ficus species can also form its own ring. They have aerial roots that descend down to the ground & grow into buttresses that help support & feed the tree. It looks like one of these aerial roots has grown onto a branch below & formed a natural ring – pretty cool.
The Royal botanical gardens also have guided bush tucker tours through the Cadi Jam Ora garden. We were shown around by a Wiradjuri man who also knew all about Gadigal foods & fibre. I found the Davidson plum pretty tart but the 2 varieties of Lillypilly were good. We also had some lemon myrtle tea – tasted like lemon grass & and damper with native seeds as well. I love bush tucker tours & try not to be a real irritating know- it-all pain in the arse ….
Ecologists – Jen Silcock & partner Russell Fairfax, as well as myself, Allan Tighe Rhonda Ashby Priscilla Reid-Loynes have very recently submitted the research paper on the TinTs. I cant reproduce the paper here as it may need adjustments if its knocked back for some reason. To get this far is a reflection on how much these trees mean to all of us. Writing an academic paper that gets accepted takes lots of field work, experience, persistence and consistent adherence to the scientific method. The best way NOT to get published is to start with preconceived notions & jump to conclusions. Jen has done a wonderful job collating & presenting our data. As she said at the beginning, the places where there are plenty of bimblebox/poplar box and no TinTs are just as important & need to be explored & documented as well. You cant just say the TinTs have been created by Aboriginal people because they look that way & they make one feel all ‘mystical’. Science has to be sceptical, repeatable & predictable. I know there will be more TinTs at about the rate of 1 per 100 metres further south along the sandhills of the murra-manaarr land system on the neighbours’ neighbour’s neighbour. They will be in clusters with the usual suspects re other trees & vegetation around old wells and/or good billabongs. Focus on nothing – see everything
Rhonda & Priscilla’s powerful contribution to the paper is more cultural than scientific. Their use of the local language & oral histories shows us the importance of the trees to the community. The land was not a source of wealth like today but of sustenance. You looked after the land & the land looked after you. People didn’t feel elevated above & separated from the animals and plants and the earthly elements like today but were connected through their totems and according to their dreaming. English poet John Donne could have been describing Aboriginal society when he wrote;
They didn’t roam around in some simple bucolic existence free from social rules, responsibilities & obligations either. Life out here pre 1788 was very complex with strict customs and protocols. Survival depended on your climate & your clan not good luck. You had marriage laws to prevent inbreeding & inherited land rights & totem restrictions to prevent over hunting. You had food distribution laws so the old people got fed & strict mourning conduct when someone died. You had contraceptive methods & medicinals to prevent over population. You had fish traps & nets & hunting techniques second to none. Disrespecting Biame could be fatal as could breaking the marriage taboo. Download the free internet version of this book below if you want to know more about Aboriginal culture & conditions. ..
The Euahlayi Tribe A Study of Aboriginal Life in Australia by K. Langloh Parker
Katie Langloh Parker was under no illusions about the displacement of Bangate’s original inhabitants by earlier settlers, writing that ‘… it is hard that having taken their country, not so bloodlessly either as people would have us believe …
Peter Austin in The Land – 13th Aug 2020
Apart from the frontier violence around the middle of the 19th century out here & the devastation of smallpox before that, some tribes & clans were wiped out by malnutrition & starvation. Once a number of young men had been shot for cattle spearing or in reprisal raids, the historical division of labour & cooperative food distribution systems fell apart. The survivors of the once self-sufficient clans were forced off their lands and into camps & missions around the large properties & small towns. Tex Skuthorpe, a Nhunggabarra /Noongahburra painter, educator and custodian of traditional law and stories wrote about this along with Scandinavian professor Karl Sveiby in:
(Treading Lightly: The Hidden Wisdom of the World’s Oldest People Karl Erik Sveiby , Tex Skuthorpe , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2006 selected work criticism life story Indigenous story)
‘The trouble for all studies of Aboriginal society, especially in the Australian southeast, is that so much of the original knowledge was lost very soon after the Europeans arrived on the continent due to the epidemic diseases unwittingly introduced by the explorers, soldiers and settlers. Maybe half the Aboriginal population of the southeast – some sources suggest even higher casualty numbers – succumbed within a few years of the ﬁrst settlement. Apart from the incomprehensible suffering experienced by the people, a large part of their enormously rich, intangible asset base disappeared. The earliest settlers and the ﬁrst anthropologists did not realise that they were only observing the fragments of collapsed societies that no longer functioned as they once did.’
Also this excerpt below;
‘Nhunggabarra people used several methods to sustain and keep animals alive. They kept their fires low-intensity so that larger animals could flee and survive and, after firing, new grass could spring up and feed kangaroos and other herbivores. Some Nhunggabarra stories also outlined the rules for where and how areas were to be – or not to be – protected from hunting and other usage. This would have been the case all over Aboriginal Australia’
I will finish with another Skuthorpe quote –
‘Neither the explorers, nor the early settlers who came after them, realised that much of the land and the vegetation they encountered was not natural, but altered by Aboriginal cultivation. The Australian landscape was to a large degree an Aboriginal artefact created by thousands of years of sustaining the earth’
– Both Bill Gammage & Bruce Pascoe have written on the great macro level changes Aboriginal Australians wrought on their landscape. If people can alter a continent can they not alter individual trees? So it’s not really a step too far to imagine old eucalypt grave markers being persuaded into hosting the deceased’s totem tree is it?