Saturday, May 19, 2012

Beautiful Balga

There is one striking plant around these plants that I never tire of looking at and was keen to plant in our garden.  The distinctive Xanthorrhoea preissii or Australian Grass Trees are called Balga in the local indigenous Nyungar language (sometimes also spelt Noongar,  Nyoongar, Nyoongah, Nyungah, or Noonga) and are common in bushland here as well as in gardens and public plantings. 

The one above is in a front garden in Dawesville, the ones flowering below are in bushland near Dunsborough,

and here are some spotted alonside the Bibbulmun Track near Dwellingup.

I've seen Balga trees set alight as part of Nyungar "Welcome to Country" ceremonies and I know of gardeners who either trim or set their tall Balga trees alight every few years to keep the accumulation of thatch down. They can survive all but the fiercest of bushfires like this trouper near the town of Harvey.

We know a local artist who collects the resin from the trunks of burnt trees, crushes it then mixes it with solvent to create an amber lacquer (complete with impurities) which she then pours and paints onto canvases.

Balga trees are very slow-growing and very long-lived (up to 600 years) so when land is cleared for housing developments they are often salvaged and sold.  The success rate for transplanted trees is apparently quite low unless a huge chunk of soil is taken with them, which of course makes the whole process very expensive.  Even the ones that do eventually thrive can go through a startling Ugly Duckling phase while settling in.

I had already decided that much as I wanted one of these trees in our garden, I couldn't be bothered with the expense and hassle of a transplanted one.  Then I was given some Balga seeds.  I sowed them recently and now I no longer need to covet the beautiful Balga in other people's gardens as I am the proud owner of 36 trees of my own.  

After reading one of our plant books I did some calculations.  I discovered that a) when I am 85 I'll have to make a decision about trimming, burning or just leaving the build-up of thatch, and b) when I am 135 those trees and I will be about the same height.


  1. Deidre- these look amazing- so Dr Suess!
    It's fair time again at school & several of the PTA have decided my class should have a 'stash-rehash' stall. I jumped at the idea, stating that I am so very happy to live in your shadow!
    Please give my love to your beautiful children and know I am VERY excited that Matilda has recently discovered fashion- stylish like her mama- I bet.
    Much love-

  2. Ooohhh, Hi Louise! Gosh we miss school fairs. They are few and far between here. Given the no-ACC-so-insured-to-the-eyeballs-plus-frighteningly-litigious nature of society here we sigh wistfully when we think back to the wonderful "smash-a-car" and other fair activities that are simply unthinkable here. Hope your stall is a huge success plus fun to organise and run.
    Matilda's style icon is Amy Pond from Dr Who. She is amassing a Converse collection to rival my Camper collection... Much love back, Deidre