Leichhardt’s ethnobotany for the eucalypts of south-east Queensland

Date: 11, May, 2021
Author(s):   Fensham, R.J.
Publisher: Australian Journal of Botany

The explorer Ludwig Leichhardt travelled with Aboriginal people in south-east Queensland during 1843–44. Leichhardt’s record of Aboriginal taxonomy in Yagara, Wakka, Kabi, and other languages was related to the current taxonomy of the eucalypts of south-east Queensland. Most of the taxonomic entities could be associated across cultures and verifies the intimate understanding of Aboriginal peoples with tree species that are difficult to distinguish in the field. Leichhardt’s record together with that of Gairabau, a Dungidau man from south-east Queensland verifies a broad array of uses for eucalypts including as gum for chewing, dying, and medicine; ash rubbed into the skin for soothing young mothers, where bees, honey and wax can be found, hollow logs for fish-traps, hard timber for weapons and utensils, bark for shelter, canoes, embalming, and containers – some species contained water, others were used to create smoke for sending signals, some species indicated an unsuitable camp-site, and others indicated the likelihood of finding koalas and possum as game. Flowering and the shedding of bark are signs for the bush calendar.