Wildflowers, Photos....The Quandong

Submitted: Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 14:26
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Hi All

Today's story is about a very unique Australian Native plant that many people may have seen in the bush, but not taken any notice of, as usually there is nothing that makes this plant stand out. Even when the plant is in flower, they are that small that they do not stand out and can only be visible when you stand right up close to the bush or tree.

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Santalum acuminatum or the Quandong is a truly unique native Australian fruit whose tart-tasting fruit can be eaten fresh or, more commonly, halved and dried and then reconstituted and used in a range of sweet and savoury products, such as preserves, sauces and chutneys, as pie filling. The kernel is also edible.

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The Quandong plant is a shrub or small tree, up to 6 metres high, with somewhat drooping branches and slender, pale green to olive leaves from 3 – 9 cm long that are paired along the stem. It can be found growing wild in the arid and semi-arid regions of all Australian mainland states. In the Northern Territory the Desert Quandong is becoming scarce most likely as a result of camel grazing. Quandongs are commonly found in woodlands as scattered individuals or small groups on sands, sandy loams or gravely ridges and occasionally on clay soils or rocky hillsides.

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Ideally adapted to arid environments, the Quandong is a partially parasitic plant. Quandongs belong to the Santalum genus of plants and are related to Sandalwood, and more distantly to mistletoe, both of which are also parasitic. Unlike mistletoe which grows on the branches of its host plant, Quandongs attach to the roots of other plants (the host), using a specialized organ known as a haustorium. This pad-like organ is produced on the roots of Quandongs and partially envelopes and forms a connection with the roots of the host plants. This allows the quandong to simply take what water and nutrients it can get from the host, while still producing some of its own food through photosynthesis in its green leaves. Research conducted by Ms Beth Byrne at the Waite Institute, Adelaide Uni has shown that a Quandong can get all of its water and nutrient from a host plant. The best host plants are surface rooted, water storing, nutrient hungry plants. This includes all acacias, casuarinas and olives as well as many other trees and shrubs. Quandong trees can tolerate high soil salinity levels.



Flowering occurs on one year old wood commencing in late autumn and continuing through to early autumn. Off-season flowering may also occur in response to favourable weather conditions. Insects, including bees, native bees and wasps, appear to be the main insects for pollen distribution. The flowers are in pyramid shaped panicles at the end of the branchlets can be green or white on the outer parts, yellow or reddish brown on the inner faces and the individual flowers are approximately 2 – 4 mm long.

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Fruit, which may reach 25mm across, begins to change colour from green to red in late winter and ripen during spring. The stone of the fruit is deeply pitted.

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Aboriginal Bush Tucker

Traditionally the Quandong was an important food source for Australian Aborigines. Amongst male members of central Australia's Pitjantjara people, Quandong were considered a suitable substitute for meat - especially when hunting game was in short supply. Around the Everard Ranges, Quandong gathering and food preparation was considered Pitjantjara women's business. Ripe red Quandong fruits would be eaten raw or dried for later use. Everard Ranges Aboriginal women would collect Quandongs in bark dishes, separate the edible fruit from the pitted stone, and then roll the edible fruit into a ball The Quandong ball was then broken up for consumption by the tribal group.

Medicinal Uses of the Quandong

Amongst Australian aborigines Quandongs were much valued for their medicinal properties. Specialised uses of the Quandong included a form of tea which was drunk as a purgative. Quandong tree roots were also ground down and used as an infusion for the treatment of rheumatism. Quandong leaves were crushed and mixed with saliva to produce a topical ointment for skin sores and boils. Encased within each Quandong seed is an oil rich kernel which was also processed in a similar fashion to treat skin disorders. Quandong kernels could also be eaten and some tribal groups were known to employ crushed kernels as a form of "hair conditioning oil". Ingeniously Australia's aborigines appeared to be aware that Quandongs were a preferred food source of emus, and that a ready supply of Quandong seeds could be found in their droppings.

European Use of the Quandong

Australia's early pastoralists also discovered their own unique uses for the Quandong. Away from homesteads for weeks at a time, stockmen would often bake dampers infused with Quandong leaves. The result was apparently a refreshing change from the usual damper. When in season, many farmers would also take their families out for a Quandong picnic. After gathering Quandongs the peeled fruit was used to make a variety of jams, chutneys and Quandong pies. Such treats were often the only delicacies to be had - especially during drought and depression years when money was short. Today successive generations of rural Australians continue with their Quandong picking traditions.

Domestication of the Quandong

During the past 30 years the Quandong has become a firm favourite of Australia's burgeoning bush food industry. Commercial Quandong plantations are now an economic reality. True domestication of the Quandong remains some way off however - not altogether surprising given that established fruit varieties such as apples have been undergoing continuous selection and development for thousands of years. Since 1973 the CSIRO has been actively conducting scientific research into developing improved commercial Quandong cultivars.
The aim of such research has been to produce a bright red Quandong with good eye appeal, improved flesh texture, and a palatable mix of Quandong flavours, tannins and food acids. To date the quest for the perfect Quandong has proven elusive. Should CSIRO be successful however, then the Quandong will have become only the second Australian food plant species to have been successfully domesticated. Bring it on CSIRO!

Queer Quandong Facts

• Fossilised Quandongs have been discovered in the coal seams of Southern Victoria. Apparently these fossils date from 40 million years ago - a time when Australia was still linked to the Antarctic continent.

• Australian people often refer to Quandongs as the Wild Peach, Desert Peach or Native Peach.

• Quandongs have vitamin C content higher than oranges and almost certainly saved many early Australian explorers from scurvy.
Quandong fruit can be dried and frozen for 8 years or more, without losing any flavour whatsoever.

• Like the related Sandalwood, Quandong trees possess an aromatic wood that was traditionally used by aboriginal people in "smoking ceremonies".

• Rural Australian children often used Quandong seeds as Chinese Checker pieces.

• Santalum acuminatum is unrelated to the Blue Quandong (Elaeocarpus augustifolius) of the Wet Tropics, whose fruit is relished by Cassowaries and Musky Rat-kangaroos.
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Reply By: Member - John and Val - Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 15:17

Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 15:17
Hi Stephen,

Thanks for another excellent and interesting post. I have only found ripe quandongs a couple of times in the bush and found them quite tasty. And next time we're passing though Copley we will be sure to call in to the bakery to sample one of their quandong pies.

As you say, there is not much about a quandong bush to make it worthy of a photo. I think this one must be my one and only quandong photo. But there would have been a good feed there when all those fruit had ripened. It was a bit east of Jurien Bay.

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Cheers,

Val
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 17:54

Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 17:54
Hi Val

Thanks for that. At least you have a picture of them on the bush, more than what I have. I will however revisit the site ( That group of Quandongs is less than fifteen minutes drive from where we live) to keep a more regular photo update on the fruits and when they hopefully develop and turn red.

It is very strange that we have been past them countless time over the years and have never stopped to take any pictures of them. It was only recently when we took a drive over to the beach that I stopped to get pictures for this story. I could not believe it when they were actually in flower. We have since been back to the site and most of the flowers have been burnt by the very hot weather that we had a few weeks ago (it was over 44 degrees C) for a few days in a row.

I again thank you for starting this great post, as I now am taking a far greater interest into plants that I would normally drive straight past.

I know you are very busy, but keep up you great work.


Best Regards



Stephen
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Follow Up By: Member - Welldone (WA) - Monday, Feb 14, 2011 at 01:27

Monday, Feb 14, 2011 at 01:27
What a great post: informative,educational,interesting and could aid in a dire survival situation. Here is my small contribution to the knowledge base, a picture of a ripe fruit on a quandong tree in the northern wheatbelt of WAImage Could Not Be Found
keep up the good work
Welldone
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Monday, Feb 14, 2011 at 07:59

Monday, Feb 14, 2011 at 07:59
Hi Welldone

I am glad that you enjoyed the story and thanks for supplying the missing photo, of a ripe Quandong. This is yet another plant that I have known about, but have never taken an interest in and I personally have learnt more about this very unique Australian native.


Once again thanks for that great picture.


Cheers


Stephen
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Reply By: equinox - Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 15:48

Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 15:48
When emus eat the fruit, they of course pass the stones. You quite often see the stones amongst emu droppings. These can be broken up to retrieve the nut which can then be eaten. The digestive system "roasts" the nuts and are quite tasty.

Cheers
Alan

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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 17:59

Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 17:59
Hi Alan

When I was doing the research, there were a number of references to emus eating them and it was a way for new seedling starting off. I have not personally tried the kernels, but will try them when the new fruit develops and ripens.

Thanks for the reply.



Cheers


Stephen
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Reply By: Lachie - Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 15:53

Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 15:53
Having been reared on an outback station In the Musgrave with the Pitjantjara people I can vouch for the popularity of the Quandong tree. How I would love a taste of some now.

Interesting the ones I knew as a kid were quite a sizeable tree but the ones in the mallee are just a shrub.

Stayed with some friends in the Sterling Rangers WA and they grew Quandongs.
I could not get over how big the fruit were. Extra water makes a big difference.

Lachie
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 19:02

Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 19:02
Hi Lachie

It is very interesting reading about the size that the trees can get to. All the Quandongs in the area where I live can be describes as small to large bushes, yet there a good pictures on the internet where they are quite sizable trees.

Thanks for your reply.

Cheers

Stephen
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Reply By: Member - barry F (NSW) - Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 17:14

Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 17:14
Thanks Stephen for a very interesting post. My family come from central western NSW & as a young bloke I remember one solitary Quandong tree on my Grandfathers property. It was situated in the midst of a clump of native trees.
I remember my father & other old timers talking of "the old days" when these trees were plentiful in the area & that they were commonly used by earlier settlers for the making of tasty Jam, tarts & pies etc. I remember my Mum having a go at making Chutney from the fruit and maybe that's why I avoid chutney to this day!! LOL.

My recollection of their taste straight of the tree is that they were a bit on the bitter side, but would love to come across some of the fruit again and give them another go. Cheers.
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 19:13

Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 19:13
Hi Barry

I can remember many moons ago when I first came across Quandongs near Broken Hill. Being like all young kids and knowing that Aboriginals used them as bush tucker, I can remember picking one from a large bush and taking a bite into the very shallow flesh. I can still now taste that very bitter taste and thought to myself how the heck could anyone eat such bitter bush tucker.

I will keep an eye on the Quandongs that I know of and will try the fruit for a second time and hope that it has a better taste that the one that I tasted all those year ago.

Thanks for your reply.


Cheers


Stephen
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Reply By: Member - joc45 (WA) - Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 20:01

Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 20:01
Hi Stephen,
I 'm getting to quite like these show-and-tell talks on our native flora! Well done!

I've tasted quite a few here in the west; some from the coastal dunes on the west coast have been relatively sweet, but some out in the wheat belt have been somewhat bitter (and often full of little surprises - grubs in there before I got to them!). The quandong jam is nice, not unlike plum jam. An old bushie who lives down the road from me dropped in some stewed quandongs last spring, which I lavished on my cereal in the mornings. Not totally sweet, but still nice.
As kids,we used painted quandong nuts as "doogs" or marbles. The kernel is quite nice to eat, rather like sandlewood nuts.
Cheers,
Gerry


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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 20:18

Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 20:18
Hi Gerry

Thanks for that, but the real thanks should go to Val for first getting this off of the ground, so to speak.

Like my reply to Barry, I have only ever tried them once, and that was a very long time ago. Weather they were not ripe, but I can still taste that very bitter taste. I will however try them again, this time making sure that they are very ripe.

I have found it fun doing these posts and have personally learnt a lot about the particular plat that appears in the posts and have been working with the aid of Val. Val is a busy lady, but I know that she would love to hear from anyone out there that is able to do a similar story on one of our great and varied flora species that we have here in Australia.

You guy's over in the West live in Flora paradise, so perhaps you could find a special plant or tree, take lots of varied photos and get in contact with Val and she will point you in the right direction.


Thanks for your reply and perhaps looking forward to reading a post from you?


Cheers

Stephen
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Reply By: Dave B ( BHQ NSW) - Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 20:31

Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 20:31
Thanks for the article Stephen, you will have to come to the Gathering, I know where there are quite a lot of quandong trees within walking distance from there.

And, with a bit of luck, there might be some ripe ones there.

There are a few different varieties of the quandong trees, and as has been mentioned, some are sweeter than others.
They usually ripen between August/September/October, depends on the variety and location.

Many years ago we did a trip to the Flinders Ranges, and where we parked for our overnight stop, there were a few quandong trees with ripe fruit.
We picked quite a few and the cook made up quite a big pot of stewed quandong to go with some cream that we had with us.
Unfortunately, I had purchased a new plastic water container not long before the trip, and all the stewed quandongs were inedible because of the tainted plastic taste from the water.

A big lesson learned there about water containers.

See you at the Gathering for some quandongs.

cheers

Dave
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 22:08

Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 22:08
Hi Dave

Don't worry, I am trying my very best to get to the gathering. I know that there are lots up your way, but you will have to make sure that they are sweet..LOL

Thanks for the reply.


Cheers


Stephen
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Reply By: Member - John Baas (WA) - Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 21:04

Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 21:04
Hi Stephen Thanks for another great post. Like you, I've never thought much about photo'ing quandongs. And their familiarity (there are heaps here in WA) must have bred contempt :-)

Here a a couple of pics instead of sandalwood, santalum spicatum, taken nearNorseman.

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Cheers.
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 22:03

Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 at 22:03
Hi John

Those photos are great and like you have some pictures of Sandalwood tree taken in the Plumridge Lakes Nature Reserve. This area was a very important area for the collection of Sandalwood, which was once a very important export market for Western Australian.

Here are my pictures of the Sandalwood from Plumridge Lakes.


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You surely must having something special in your photo collection of either trees or plants that you would love to share?

Thanks for taking the time to reply.


Cheers


Stephen
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Reply By: Member - Dunworkin (WA) - Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 01:38

Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 01:38
Hi Stephen, thanks for the great post, I remember eating Quandongs when I was just a kid, many moons ago.
When we went over to the Ferry last year coming back through Colby (spelling) I think it was, there is a little cafe there that sells Quandong jam. We picked up some for our friends down the Yorke Peninsular as they love it. I must have eaten too many as a kid because I can't eat it.
Like joc, we use to play doogs with the seeds, must be a WA thing LOL.
Cheers

Deanna


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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 10:19

Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 10:19
Hi Deanna

Thanks for your reply. Copley is renowned for its quality Quandong products and I was only speaking to someone about it the other day. The question I asked is who collects them all for the pies, jams etc and he said that a few of the local Aboriginals go out and collect them and make some good money in the process, being paid per kilogram collected.

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

ps

I am still waiting patiently for the latest Cooper Ferry details from my contact in Port Augusta. I have asked her twice for the details but she said that she has been very busy with the floods in the outback parts of SA and will get them to me when possible.


Cheers


Stephen

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Follow Up By: Member - Dunworkin (WA) - Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 11:46

Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 11:46
Thanks Stephen, it will be interesting to see how all that rain through Qld and SA will or will not effect the ferry. Thank you for your continued supply of information, it's much appreciated.
I'm finding it hard to understand why almost all of Aus is so wet but this little SW corner of the country is so dry, just a few showers to give the bush a little drink would be great. It will come though.
Thanks again
Cheers
Deanna


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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 12:04

Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 12:04
Hi Deaane

I have not spoken to Jason or Pasty at Etadunna for a few weeks now and from what I have been told by them and also the DTEI, no one is game to say just how long it will be before the next lot of water crosses again over the Birdsville Track and puts the ferry back into operation.

One thing is for sure, it will happen but it is going to be the big waiting game.


Cheers

Stephen
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Follow Up By: Teraa - Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 13:27

Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 13:27
So far not much has happened on the track including not much sign of the ferry being extended. The flood waters are at no kind of level as last year are past the back of Mungerannie station. It's hard to say how much is left in the lakes that need to refil before it gets to the track. There doesn't seem to be any follow up in system in QLD. But they have had regular good falls of rain near the ferry so it will get here eventually but if you have a look on the roads SA page they say they will extend the ferry. Evaporation is quite high at this time of the year. So I got my doubts if it will get to the Lake it will probably go over the track just to be annoying. The high rainfall didn't happen north of Mungerannie so some of the Lake Eyre media is a bit out there.Plenty of water coming in from the West but none up North here, Warburton is ankle deep.
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Follow Up By: Teraa - Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 13:29

Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 13:29
Comment got away from me, nice pics Steve I always wondered about the Quandong and what the tree looked like.
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 14:16

Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 14:16
Hi Tess

I have been told that work has commenced for the lengthening the ferry, but it is not down on site, but down south. When the finished work is complete, it will be trucked up and attached to the ferry...well that is what I am told.

As you would know, Jason would prefer no more water, as the moment that water starts to enter Lake Hope, it will stop all fishing until the inflows stop again.

Thanks for the comments about the Quandong story and pictures.


Cheers

Stephen
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Follow Up By: Teraa - Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 23:18

Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 23:18
Yeah I reckon the next run in the Cooper is going to be more annoying than good, well for the locals anyway. Once the track is closed we will have no supply truck this time around - poor old Tom is sick being bogged I reckon. Not sure how the pub is going to go, it will make life hard for them. Not alot water in this flow they reckon so it will be a slow mover but the system is wet so who knows when we get it, good to hear about the punt. Phil told me they hadn't started yet I haven't gone for look yet, enjoying the track for now. They did put a notice up on the web site so I got more hopefull when I saw that, not sure how it will help the locals but at least the camper trailers can get accross.
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Reply By: Member - John Baas (WA) - Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 01:44

Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 01:44
Thks Stephen. Yes I do have heaps of images. And I'm very appreciative of what you and Val are doing.

But I'm sticking to my guns. As I responded to you Dec last year:




"Submitted:Wednesday, Dec 15, 2010 at 22:06
Member - John Baas (WA) replied:
Thanks for the kind words Stephen. Val's efforts and your's are worthier, I submit.

But, what we must do now is place pressure on David to recognise everyone's efforts to get this stuff much higher in the EO pages.

It was quite dis-spiriting to me to realise that only the drover's dogs fleas might ever find this blog on the site. So I stopped doing anything with it (among a couple of other unresolved issues as well).

Which is a pity as I've many 100's of images that I could build into an educative tool over time".




Despite all the good work by you two and others since then, wildflowers as a rubric is still totally buried on the site. Very disappointing!

Cheers.



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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 10:23

Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 10:23
Hi John

Keep the pressure on David and if enough people have the same thought, then that is how changes will be made.


Thanks for that.


Cheers


Stephen
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Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 09:29

Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 09:29
Gday Stephen,
Nice work!

Heres a couple of Quandong tree photos I've taken in the Great Victoria Desert. I guess they are more mature trees that in the other photos?
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Cheers
Phil
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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 09:32

Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 09:32
Actually, I have got the photos mixed up - the first is a desert Kurrajong - Oh I wish we had an edit function!
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 09:49

Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 09:49
Hi Phil

Thanks for the photos. That Quandong is a good size tree compared to the ones around here. I was going to let this story run its full life cycle, from flower to the ripe fruit, but like Val said, that anything could happen between now and around August. Like I have said above, I for my own personal records I will keep any eye on the bushes closest to where we live and take regular photos and could perhaps do a 'Mark 11' when the fruit is ripe.


Thanks for the reply.


Cheers


Stephen
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Reply By: Member - Min (NSW) - Tuesday, Feb 15, 2011 at 10:03

Tuesday, Feb 15, 2011 at 10:03
Hi Stephen,

Thanks for a very interesting and comprehensive run down on the quandong. A truly fascinating plant that has brought back so many childhood memories judging by the replies. Well done!

You and Val have jogged me into being more thorough in my photo records of plants. It is obvious that many people enjoy these posts and they are very relevant to all who travel Oz.

Cheers,
Min
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Tuesday, Feb 15, 2011 at 14:22

Tuesday, Feb 15, 2011 at 14:22
Hi Min

Thanks for the kind words. As we all know, Australia has some very unique plants that most of us take for granted. It is not until you do some research that you often realise just how special that plant can be.

Since Val has started this great new feature on Wildflowers, Plants..., I personally will be taking a greater interest in the Native vegetation when we travel and have since purchased a number of extra books to help me identify the different type of plants that I find.

I know that you have put up a great post as well, but we now need other members to join in with that special plant that they have pictures of to keep this going. I have a few more up my sleeve, but still working on them.

Looking forward to your next great post.


Cheers


Stephen
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