Creek lilly pilly
BRACHYCHITON ACERIFOLIUS Flame tree
Blue lilly pilly
- Bush tucker food -
ACACIAS — The gum of Australian species when soaked in water tends to form a jelly-like substance, which
for most palates. Pale amber gums are usually more pleasant than those that are a darker red-brown colour.
Acacia oshanesii —
Irish Wattle; The unmistakable scent of the pollen can be taken advantage of in fritters or
for a truly Australian snack, pikelets. The flowers are stripped from the stem, mixed in a light batter and fried;
said to be very pleasant to eat and also having a distinct flavour.
Acmena smithii —
Creek lilly-pilly; Acmena hemilampra — Broad Leaved lillly-pilly; Acmena ingens — Red
Apple; These common trees of coastal rainforests and many backyard gardens are widely known as bush
tucker. However, although the fruits are highly alluring and extremely popular with the local wildlife (possums
in particular) their taste is drying and not very palatable.
Acronychia wilcoxiana —
Silver Aspen; Rainforest species with cream or white four lobed fruits which are sour
Acrotriche aggregata —
Tall Groundberry; A shrub of sandy infertile soils, often found in dry scrub and
woodlands. Produces bright red, shiny fruits along the branches that ripen unpredictably. These fruits are
edible but tasteless.
Alectryon tomentosus —
Hairy Alectryon; A pinnate leaved species of rainforests with a lobed fruit around 7mm
wide. When mature the upper part of the fruit wall falls off exposing jet-black seeds enveloped in a red fleshy
jacket. The jacket is crisp and pleasant to eat.
Alpinia Caerulea -—
Native Ginger; A cane-like shrub with large glossy leaves, common in rainforests.
Produces bright blue grape-sized fruits, which when cracked open reveal a mass of dark seeds surrounded by
a white pulp which is similar in taste to ginger. The whole fruit (minus the outer coating) is placed in the mouth
and sucked before spitting out the seeds. Native ginger was so popular with aboriginals that it is said that the
seeds spat out along the trails would mark the trails for future use.
Aphananthe Philippinensis –-
Rough-leaved Elm; A large ornamental rainforest tree, fairly slow growing, which
produces a fruit with a blackish, fleshy drupe ripening from October to January. Fruit is said to taste of stewed
Arucaria bidwillii —
Bunya Pine; This well known pine of South-East Queensland is renowned for its tasty
nuts. Aborigines came from far and wide for the ‘bunya feast’ where the huge cones (30cm in diameter) were
knocked down from the trees by climbers who would cut toe holds into the huge trees. The seeds were eaten
raw or roasted and are delicious when boiled.
Arytera lautereriana —
Corduroy Tamarind; An attractive tree of rainforests which has slender pinnate leaves
and reddish three-lobed fruits with pale yellow pulp. The pulp is edible and pleasantly tangy in flavour.
Austromyrtus dulcis —
Midyim; A hardy 1 metre shrub with attractive pink-tipped foliage that grows
prolifically in coastal areas. The small whitish/grey fruits have been described as the best of all bush
tuckers and were collected in huge quantities by coastal aboriginal tribes. Their soft pulp is soft and
sweet and the seeds are so small that the whole fruit can be eaten with pleasure.
Austromyrtus hillii —
Scaly Myrtle; Small rainforest tree which has black edible fruits.
Babingtonia similis —
Twiggy Myrtle; Common shrub found near creeks and rivers. The leaves are used to
produce a pleasant tasting tea with a good aroma.
Backhousia citriodora —
Lemon Scented Myrtle; The exquisitely fresh lemon-scented leaves of this small
rainforest tree have made it a very popular bush tucker food. The leaves make a pleasant tasting and
calming tea and are also harvested for use in Asian cooking.
Banksia integrifolia —
Coastal Banksia; An easily recognizable shrub of coastal areas with its distinct
flowers and unusual seed pods. The pollen laden flowers were either sucked or soaked in water allowing
Blechnum indicurn —
Bungwall Fern; A large fern of coastal swampy areas, which produces long black
rhizomes. An important food source of many coastal tribes the rhizomes were dug out, roasted, and then
bruised before eating with a meat dish or ground and dried to be used in biscuits. As a survival food the
starchy rhizomes can also be eaten raw.
Brachychiton acerifolium —
Flame Tree; A tree that has been widely cultivated for its unique foliage. The
seeds are edible and have a nutty flavour.
Brachychiton populneus —
Kurrajong; Usually found in drier areas. Leaves tend to be 3 or 5 lobed with a
weeping form. The tree produces red flowers, which are followed by a brown leathery pod. The pods split
to reveal a group of seeds, which are best removed with a stick due to the irritating hairs. The seed is quite
nutritious and nutty in flavour.
Canavalia rosea —
Beach Bean; A vigorous creeper found along beach dunes. Can be identified by its large
leaves, lilac pea flowers, and large (8-14cm long) bean pods. When raw the beans are poisonous causing
vomiting, however after roasting the big seeds are quite tasty. The first Englishmen to give the beans a go
was Captain Cook in 1770 and described the beans as “not to be despised.” Joseph Banks was next with “a
kind of beans, very bad”. Also used by Ludwig Leichhardt to make a coffee substitute.
Capparis arborea —
Native Caper Capparis sarmentosa – Scrambling Caper; Shrubs or scrambling
climbers of coastal rainforests. Capparis species are hook climbers with sharp spines covering young
plants, however flowering branches are spineless. The white petals of the flower are distinctive, and fruit
when mature, are roughly 7cm across and orange-yellow in colour. The pulp of the fruit, which ripens from
May to July, is sweet and tasty.
Carissa ovata —
Currant Bush; Remarkable for its ability to grow in a wide range of conditions from
mangrove fringes to scrub and arid areas. Produces oval brownish black fruits which are pleasantly sweet
and are similar to juicy dates.
Carpobtotus glaucescens —
Pigface; A fleshy common creeper of coastal sandy areas with purple flowers
and purplish-red fruits. The fruits have a unique but enjoyable taste, which has been described as similar to
salty strawberries. The leaves of the plant were also used with meat as a salt substitute.
Citrus australis, australasica –
Round lime, Finger Lime; These small trees of the rainforests are some of the
best bush tuckers going round. Each species has small round leaves and spines along the stem. The fruits
are green and fairly small compared to the commercial variety of lime; however the taste is just as good.
Being deliciously sweet and tangy the fruits are ideal for use in drinks or marmalade.
Cyatheae sp, Dicksonia sp —
with the upper portion of the trunk split, and one half turned back. This had evidently been done by the
Aborigines, to obtain the heart for food, but how this process was effected, I could not discover;
Davidsionia pruriens —
Davidson’s Plum; The purple egg-shaped fruit of this tree ripens in autumn. It has a
very tangy flavour and is delicious stewed with sugar. It also makes an excellent jam and a good wine.
Dianella congesta —
Flax Lily; The shiny, dark blue berries are edible. Aborigines ate the roots after pounding
and roasting on hot rocks.
Dioscorea transverse —
Rainforest Long Yam; A vine of the east coast rainforests. The vine produces long
thin tubers, which can be quite deep underground (up to 50cm). These tubers were either eaten raw or
cooked and boiled and are said to have a similar flavour to potato.
Diploglottis australis —
Native Tamarind; Its impressive large leathery leaves make this an easily
identifiable rainforest tree. It produces three-lobed fruits which each contain a yellow-orange jelly like pulp.
The pulp is one of the best bush tuckers available and has a pleasant sour taste. Contains high amounts
of vitamin C and is ideal for cool drinks and jams.
Diploglottis campbellii —
Small-leaf Tamarind ; This attractive medium sized rainforest tree is now on the rare
and endangered list as only a handful exist in the wild. The juicy red fruit, although very acid, is pleasant to
eat or use in drinks or jams.
Elaeocarpus grandis —
Blue Quandong ; A tall handsome rainforest tree which produces bright blue walnut-
sized fruit March till June. Fruit stones were used for necklaces and earrings. The aboriginal people made
an edible paste from the fruits.
Eleocharis dulcis —
Edible Spike Rush Leichhardt highly regarded this bush tucker as the best he had
tasted. The leafless rush with cylindrical stems up to one metre high and underground tubers was highly
prized by aborigines for their sweet taste. The underground tubers were dug up and eaten either raw or
cooked, and often ground down to use as a flour.
Eugenia reinwardtiana —
Beach Cherry ; The bright red fruit of this small shrub ripens between August and
March and produces a sweet, succulent fruit.
Eupomatia laurina —
Native Guava; Described by botanists as being one of the world’s most primitive
species due to its strange flower structure. The round fruits of this small rainforest tree are sweet and
pleasant to eat and are similar to the taste of a guava.
Exocarpos cupressiformis — Cherry Ballart,
Native Cherry; Exocarpos latifolius—Broad-leaved Native
Cherry; Small semi-parasitic shrubs 2-8m with leaves reduced to minute scales. Aborigines ate the
fruit, a red, egg-shaped berry, when ripe. The stalk is sweet and palatable when deep red.
Ficus coronata —
Sandpaper Fig; Ficus fraserii—White Sandpaper Fig; These two species are difficult to
distinguish between as their growth forms are very similar. Both are found along creeks and in rainforest and
were used as sandpaper as the leaves are extremely coarse. The fruit are varying in taste from very similar
to that of a domestic fig to being very dry and insipid.
Ficus macrophylla —
Moreton Bay Fig; Ficus watkinsiana—Strangler Fig; Both these species of fig are well
known for their huge size and popularity in large parks and gardens. Both produce large purplish fruits,
which are quite sweet and succulent and are relatively pleasant despite the mass of gritty seeds.
Ficus rubiginosa —
Small Leaved Rock Fig; This species has an unusual distribution, being found
sporadically near Broome, Ayres Rock, The Kimberley, Far North Qld, and the Moreton Bay region. It is a
huge tree found on rocky outcrops in coastal rainforest, which produces a fruit which is high in calcium and
potassium. So important to desert Aboriginal tribes that anyone harming the plant could be killed.
Gahnia aspera –
Saw Sedge; This common grass-like sedge grows 40 to 80cm tall and is found in diverse
situations from Southern NSW to Nth Qld. The fruit is a hard, shiny, red-brown nut that the Aborigines
pounded into flour.
Lepironia articulate —
Grey Sedge; This common sedge of coastal areas is easily recognised by its large
size and cylindrical green-grey leaf stems. The underground stems were reportedly eaten.
Leucopogon parviflorus —
Coast Beard Heath; Shrub of coastal dunes and heaths. Has small leaves, 1-
3cm long and tiny five-petaled flowers. The fruit, which forms in clusters along the stem, is cream in
colour and has pleasant lemon taste.
Lomandra hystrix —
Mat rush; Lomandra longifolia Spiny mat rush; The white soft base of the leaves of
these species can be eaten.
Macadamia integrifolia —
Queensland Nut; This is the best known and most widely planted of all Australian
food plants. Now grown in commercial plantings in Northern NSW and S.E. Qld. Aborigines also relished
the sweet oily nuts.
Macadamia tetraphylla —
Bopple Nut; The nut from this tree has been described as the world’s finest-
flavoured yet Macadamia integrifolia
(Queensland Nut) still dominates in the commercial growing of the
nuts. This is because M. tetraphylla has a higher sugar content which leads to the browning of the kernels
Maclura cochinchinensis —
Cockspur Thorn; This spiny vine throws out long arched stems of new growth but
could be hedged. The edible fleshy yellow-orange fruits are juicy, pleasant and sweet and the plant may live
hundreds of years.
Melastoma affine —
Blue Tongue Very similar in appearance to the popular Tibouchina with its dark
purple/pink flowers and 3 veined leaves. The fruits are brown scaly capsules which when ripe burst open to
reveal a dark purple fleshy pulp. The pulp is pleasantly sweet and popular with kids as it stains the mouth
Zig-zag vine; The aborigines ate the ripe fruit from this easily grown scrambling vine
straight off the forest floor. The orange fleshy fruit ripens from January to March and has a pleasant acidic
Corduroy Tamarind; An attractive medium sized rainforest tree. The greeny-
yellow fruits contain a seed completely enclosed in a juicy clear orange aril. This tastes delicious for those
who like tartness.
Boobialla; The shiny purplish fruits of this shrub or tree of coastal areas taste a combination of
bitter and salty sweet.
Waterlily; These plants with their large round green floating leaves and distinct white flowers
are common throughout eastern Queensland. Almost every part of the lily was used by the Aborigines as a
food source including the tubers and the nectar of the flowers which when overeaten can cause headaches.
Pandanus peduncularis —
Screw Pine; High in fats and protein the pandanus made up a vital part of the
aboriginal diet. These distinctive trees of coastal areas have large orange seeds that if left uncooked are
poisonous, causing sore lips, blistered tongue and as Ludwig Leichhardt found out “violent diarrhea.” After a
tedious process to remove the toxins the taste is described as similar to sweetened baked potato.
Pittosporum multiflorum, spinescens —
Orange Thorn, Native Lime; Spiny understorey shrubs to 2 metres.
The hard orange berries ripen from May to July. They were eaten by the aborigines and are said to have an
average flavour with a tang similar to an orange.
Black Apple; Aborigines ate the large, juicy purple-black fruit which ripens during late
spring and summer. The fruits are often used to make a jelly.
Pleiogynium timorense —
Burdekin Plum; A tree found north from Gympie, the Burdekin Plum is often found
in rainforest gullies and on rocky hillsides. The fruit is large and similar in form to a plum. That’s where the
similarity ends however with the fruit being unpalatable unless left to soften for a few days.
Podocarpus elatus —
Brown Pine; Large specimens are uncommon
the wild as they were widely
black and plum-like. The flesh is rather bland but still pleasant with its jelly like texture.
Rebus fraxinifolius —
Queensland Raspberry; A small shrub of rainforest edges with a fruit that resembles a
raspberry crossed with a strawberry. The fruit is drier than the cultivated variety but still quite pleasant. The
taste is described as excellent when made into a jam.
Native Elderberries; Resembles the garden variety of Elderberry. The shiny 3-6mm creamy-
yellow fruits form in dense, large clusters. The fruits are juicy and are a pleasantly sweet flavour.
Solanum aviculare —
Kangaroo Apple; A soft-wooded shrub of rainforest margins the kangaroo apple has
egg-shaped fruits which change from green to orange when ripening. The pulp of the fruit is sickly-sweet but
with a bitter after-taste. Berries must be absolutely ripe to be edible as unripe fruit is said to be poisonous.
The unripe berries are used in pharmacy as steroid precursors for the synthesis of contraceptives and
Sterculia quadrifida —
Peanut Tree; Leathery, boat-shaped fruiting capsules ripen in summer splitting open
to reveal a beautiful bright red interior containing shiny, black, peanut-sized seeds which have a delicious
nutty flavour. Aborigines ate them raw or roasted.
Syzygium australe —
Brush Cherry; A small tree of rainforest creeks and scrubs, produces masses of bright
pink fruits in summer and autumn. The fruits are spongy and quite juicy and are refreshing in taste. They
make a good jam and have been used to make wine.
Syzygium luehmanii —
Riberry; The most popular garden variety of the lilly-pillies because of its attractive
growth form and the flush of weeping pink new growth. The pear shaped fruits are a dull red and are
pleasant eating and a popular ingredient in many wildfood dishes.
Syzygium Moorei —
Rose Apple; Now on the rare and endangered plant list this large rainforest tree was
called the ‘Watermelon Tree’ by the early settlers for the colour of its cauliflorus flowers. It bears large
white fruit which are juicy though insipid in flavour.
Syzygium oleolsum —
Blue Lilly-Pilly; This small tree of rainforests can be found along much of the east
coast. The foliage has a bronze tinge and produces red-purple fruits which become blue when ripe. The
fruits are a decent size and are very juicy making for pleasant eating. Can be used to make jams or jellies.
Tasmannia insipida —
Brush Pepperbush; Small rainforest shrub that produces clusters of dark purple to
whitish berries. The flesh of the fruit is sweet and the seed, which is surprisingly hot, can be crushed and
used as pepper.
Water Ribbons; A water plant with long streamer like leaves and a tall yellow-green seed spike
that rises above the water. The roots of the plant swell to form tubers (up to 200/plant) and were roasted and
pounded to be used as a baby food or for the elderly.
shallow ponds. The new white shoots which pop up from spring to summer can be boiled and are pleasant
in taste if not too fibrous. Shoots should be cut while growing horizontally.
Vigna lanceolate —
Pencil Yam; A twining legume of dry creek flats and granite country, the pencil yam is
regarded as one of the best bush tucker vegetables. The yellow pea-flowers are followed by the green bean
pod. The thin taproot is dug up and roasted.