Grass tree (Xanthorrhoea australis)

This iconic Australian plant now features in garden design and landscaping. Traditionally they grow in sandy or stony infertile soils. There are 28 species. They have a woody trunk, topped with tough wiry slender leaves. At flowering they produce a tall woody spike, covered in pale cream tiny flowers.

Our First Nations people thought they were exceptionally useful. Yielding edible starch (some as high as 40% carbohydrate) nectar, shoots, gum that served as glue and flower stalks that made fire sticks and spear handles. In the 19th century an Aussie entrepreneur, pioneered techniques for extracting sugar from the cores but the sugar cane industry took off, fortunately for the grass tree species.