Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Our Burrawangs Produce Seed Cones

Many years ago we 'rescued' some very small burrawangs (Macrozamia communis) from our local state forest (now a national park) when it was being logged.
We eventually planted those that survived the transplant in the front of the house.
They are now huge and their spikey leaves would deter the most determined intruder.

Burrawangs are members of the cycad family. Though they are a minor component of the plant kingdom today, during the Jurassic period they were very common and have changed little since then, compared to some major evolutionary changes in other plant life.
The individual plants are either male or female and the latter very occasionally produce seed cones.
When ripe, the cone on the female plant breaks apart to release the large, bright red seeds.
I have never noticed any pollen producing male cones on any of our plants.

The seeds are a good source of starch but are poisonous. It is suggested not even to touch the cones as the poison can be absorbed through the skin.
Local Aboriginal people however know how to convert them, safely, into a food.
The plants are prolific in our area, particularly as understorey in spotted gum forests and can live for 120 years.

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