Wednesday, January 16, 2013


My sister and I were talking about the Australian Christmas Tree last night. "Aren't they wonderful?" She said. "But I've never wanted to go near them, let alone pick one of their flowers. They're sort of strange."

Driving by a grove of these trees is a delight. They are sort of strange. They are parasitic and can travel their roots hundreds of metres underground searching for a mate, even plain old grass, to feed upon. They look like nothing all year and suddenly, at Christmas time they sprout outrageous flowers  of a colour I have difficulty defining. Seeing them in the bush can be an epiphany. It's yellow. No. Orange. Life itself? Pumpkin stamens? Not quite. The closest I get to explaining their colour is the colour of the jumper my grandma knitted me for Christmas (from balls of wool discarded by farmers' wives who knew better). I wore it on the veranda on Christmas Day and was so overcome by hungry bees that I ripped it off and never wore it again.

I've always found it interesting that in local lore, these trees are the places where the old peoples' spirits stop to rest awhile, before heading off to the otherworld.

Have you experienced seeing one of your friends/dogs/folk in the weeks or months after their death? I've seen them and felt them and my sister agreed that she has too. Not so long after a loved one has gone ... in the supermarket or down the street, I see them. I've seen their brindle flash, a head of grey hair or a crazy smile from the corner of my eye. It is always from the corner of my eye. Sometimes they stick around for months and it is never a bad feeling. It's like they stay to know that we are all okay and then one day, they are gone and when they go, it's like an elastic band snapping.

A lovely connection between Noongar and European culture on this south coast is this same same law, when it comes to the Christmas Tree:

You must never cut down, break a branch off, or pick the flower of the Christmas Tree because you may disturb the newly deceased who are 'resting', looking over their families to make sure they are okay, before they leave forever.

You must never cut down, break a branch off, or pick the flower of the Christmas Tree because it has been designated as a protected species.

Beautiful, hey?

Have a look here for Moodgar, Nyutsia floribunda, and other names for the Christmas Tree.
Image: Nyutsia floribuna in Cape Le Grande National Park.


  1. It is beautiful. I like the folklore that accompanies it.

  2. Thanks Razz. Like any plants, the Christmas Tree has a human story attached to it.

  3. Yes. I commented to Boy Wonder the other day that they were still flowering. Awesome yellow. They look almost like they have been bonsai'd to me, especially the ones at Waichinnicup and other coastal locations where they get dwarfed by the wind. I worked with the Clontarf boys to create a design for a concrete 'mandala' in a park in Spencer Park. A major part of the overall design of this park revolved around protecting a little copse of these trees.

    And yes, I have often seen/felt departed people and loved animals. Especially my beloved pets.

  4. Beautiful. No I don't get visited by past relatives. I'm too wedded to my western logical need for proof mentality - though I am open to these things if they seek me out. Perhaps you have to believe in the first instance. I do maintain strong sense of memory and connection however through story and mementos. Your piece has reminded me of my mother's 60+ year old collection of pressed wildflowers from WA from the time she worked there as a 19 year old for the PMG (she was a Sydney girl). My favourites are her "kangaroo paws". I will taks some photos and load them and then find a way to mount and display them.

    1. Anizoganthis manglesii: Mangle's Kangaroo Paw Krulbrang
      Anizoganthis viridis Endl. Swamp Kangaroo Paw Koroylbardang

      Roll that lingo around your mouth Mr Hat.
      Please post some pictures.

  5. Yes, beautiful. Don't you love those places where cultures overlap?

    And yes, my nan, twice: didn't see her but had a huge gush of floral scent and knew it was her -- the second time I was overseas, so I was like, WOW, you've come to check up on me all the way over here!

    Since I was a teenager I've had older women around me who see and hear the 'spooks', as they call them, and it floors me, some of the things they get told!

    1. Oh, I do, Ms PoW.
      I love the idea of smelling their perfume as they waft by. I haven't actually experienced this, it's always been vision for me.