Grasstrees of Western Australia

Paul Chong

A Chinese by Descent

An Australian by Consent 

Sunday, 27 June 2021

Australia is a unique country . . . popularly known as the Lucky Country. Its uniqueness rests upon the fact as being a huge island continent featuring animals like kangaroo & koala not found anywhere else. Another amongst others is the prominent grass trees in Western Australia quite different from those in the eastern states.

Grasstrees formerly known as Blackboy is not like the conventional tree. Its got a black trunk with 

green spiny growth sticking out from all over the trunk. It catches fire easily  & its black trunk is due to forrest fire which helps in its growth & spread. Its growth is only one centimetre per year. Nowadays it’s a popular landscape feature despite costing from $1000 to $3000 depending on height & the number of prongs. For instance, a three-prong grasstree being rare will cost in the upper price range.

With such a landscaped garden of dark sentinels with porcupine hair, no watering is required. The only maintenance is to give “ the blackbody a haircut” as used to be said.

Because of the racial connotation attached to the name, its name nowadays is
“grasstree”. Fire takes care of grasstrees naturally & guardingly. Without a haircut, it’s pretty unkempt & becomes a fire hazard.

Grasstrees are a galore on my escarpment home block of land both in front & back of our residence. Thinking I could make a deal with the grass tree businessman down the hill closely. Contrarily, he would charge me for “removing” them with heavy machinery. 

You wonder how grasstrees propagate themselves in their natural environment. Growing tall from the centre of the tree is the flowering stem/stick coated by a sticky rough ness of flowers (nothing much to look at). When caught with fire, these tiny flowers explode & are dispersed far & wide. In time tens & hundreds of years they would appear protruding from the ground at the rate of the cehtimdfer per year.

I am very happy to say that we have three or four grass trees in a cluster guarding our letter box. & tens of dark sentinels standing tall in our backyard.         


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