Australian Aboriginal Ornament
Erythrina vespertilio – Bat’s-wing coral bean – Fabaceae
The aboriginal tribes of the Central Desert of Australia have a long tradition of decorating their bodies with feathers, pigments and seeds. The seed necklaces made and worn for aboriginal womens’ ceremonies centered on sexuality and fertility. Commonly used seeds for these necklaces were ‘ininti’ and ‘witchinbara’.
‘Ininti’, the bat-winged coral tree, Erythrina vespertilio, and ‘witchinbara’, Stylobasium spathulatum, were formed into long strands generally on hand-spun string made from human hair. These body ornaments were worn in lengthy harnesses over one shoulder, across the chest and under the arms. They were also wound around the head to form headbands to hold feather headdresses in place. Women and children picked up quantities of ‘ininti’ seeds, which can be yellow, orange or red, as they foraged for food. Later they burned holes in them to ready them for stringing.1
Beads were formerly strung on human hair but now the readily available cotton or filament have taken precedence
Santalum acuminatum (R.Br.) DC. – Quandong – Santalaceae
The painted seeds of the quandong, Santalum acuminatum, served as Chinese checkers and as shirt-pins and stud-buttons. The stone’s hard pitted surface make attractive ‘beads’ for bracelets and necklaces.
Quandong, a small tree or tall shrub in the southwest and central desert regions of Australia, is its aboriginal name. This is one of the most important trees of the Anangu people for its bright red, fleshy round fruits, one-half to three-quarters inch in diameter (2.5-3 cm) are edible and make delicious jams and jellies.
Aboriginal people also consume the nutritious kernel enclosed by the pitted stone and use its oil as a medicinal rub for skin and scalp. At one time those seed kernels, so rich in oil, were speared on a stick to make a candle.
Eucalyptus – spp. – Gum nuts – Myrtaceae
The fruits of the more than 300 species of Eucalyptus that are indigenous to Australia only, range in size from one-quarter-inch – two inches (0.5-5cm). The fruits, called “gum nuts,” are woody capsules with a lid that slips off when the fruit is ripe, allowing small angular seeds to fall out. Eucalyptus is from the Greek eu, ‘well,’ and kalypto, ‘to cover,’ as with a lid. This alludes to the united calyx lobes and petals forming a cap which is shed when the flower opens.
Colloquially known as “gums,” they generally have no gum, but oil in the leaves and twigs make them rich fodder for forest fires.
The people of the southwest desert of Australia call themselves Anangu, “we people.” This tribe burns stories of ancestral journeys into their crafts. The technique of incising crafts with burnt wire decoration is recent and is synonymous with them. Known as “poker work,” it stems from aboriginal men who worked as shepherds and learned the effect of hot iron when branding cattle.3
Source: Botanical Beads of the World – By Ruth J. Smith
More about the Kurrajong and it’s seeds
The fruit is a woody, boat-shaped pod, about
7 cm long, which is at first green but ripens black,
splitting down one side to release about 20 yellow
hairy seeds. The hairs on the seeds can cause
intense irritation to sensitive skin.
Historically, the fibre of the bark was used by
Aborigines for making cordage and nets, while
early explorers and settlers roasted and ground the
seeds to make a pleasant beverage.
Kurrajong seeds can be roasted and eaten (note it should be cooked in one way or another before eating); Aboriginal people roasted & ground the seeds and used it to make cakes. It was also used as a flour-extender. It is quite a useful, sustainable food source, as the seeds remain in their pods a long time, and stay good for a year or more whilst in the pod. Simply pick what you need and leave the rest on the tree. Possibly for the birds, things are always better shared 🙂
Ground-up seeds can also be brewed into a coffee substitute, which is described as having more of a mocha-taste, rather than a true coffee taste.