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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Urmenyhazi

The wattle and the whales

Updated: Aug 16, 2022

yellow flower
Sydney golden wattle - gold and the green, the colours of Australia

Last weekend I attended a bush foods survival course for our local area. The amount of information to take in was overwhelming.

Our teacher, Jake Cassar has a very deep knowledge of plants and animals. His tours of Sydney focus on edible and medicinal native and introduced plants. A lot of knowledge was passed to him by Aboriginal elders.

Jake can't walk for more than a few metres in the bush without finding something to eat, so it's a very slow walk.

One of the plants we chatted about was the iconic Sydney golden wattle. It's also Australia's national floral emblem.

Indigenous peoples of Australia soaked the gum of the golden wattle in water and honey to produce a sweet, toffee-like substance. The tannin from the bark is known for its antiseptic properties.

Colonial settlers also cultivated the golden wattle using the bark in the tanning industry, the gum for glues and the blossom for its honey.

A quick demonstration by Jake showed that when the leaves are mixed with water, rubbed quickly in your hands, it froths up with cleansing properties similar to soap.

However, for me, the most fascinating fact about this plant is this gem of ancient Aboriginal wisdom - when the wattle is flowering, whales can be seen off Sydney's shores.

Humpbacks, southern right whales and occasionally, blue whales can be seen traveling south to the cooler waters.

If you're very lucky, you may see them seeking shelter in Sydney's bays.

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