Sunday, March 4, 2012

Big Bad Banksia Men: created by May Gibbs

Following on from yesterday's blog about banksias, I'd like to show you some of the ways in which people have made use of the flowers and cones.

Early in the morning (before nectar-loving birds and evaporation took their share) Aboriginal people sucked the sweet beads of nectar from large banksia flower spikes. Alternatively, they soaked the blossoms in water to make a sugary drink, sometimes allowing natural fermentation to take place.

When squeezing the individual flowers, a sticky sugary secretion transfers to your fingers. Bees, beetles and honey-eaters also enjoy sipping the nectar from banksias.

Banksia timber has magnificent colour and grain and therefore makes excellent furniture. The cones are used in wood turning. In the photos, you can see the egg turned from a banksia cone -- and close-ups showing the colour and grain.

Aboriginal people had an entirely different use of banksia cones. Smouldering cones were used as torches and for warmth.

Botanical artist Celia Rosser has made it her ambition to paint (using watercolour paint), life-size and in the finest detail, all species of banksia. Examples of her work are shown in the photos: one on the front cover of the book, the other on page 20. Her work is an inspiration.

Australian children's author May Gibbs (1876 to 1969) wrote of Big Bad Banksia Men, and worked crooked eyes and mouths into drawings of a banksia cone. Her books Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are Australian classics and have been recently republished.

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