Kakadu National Park

With more than 2,000 plant species, Kakadu is bursting with life. Many of our plants have been used by local Aboriginal people for generations as bush foods, medicines and weaving materials.

Pandanus

Gonggirr is the most common of the three species of pandanus found in Kakadu. It is easily recognised by its ‘cork-screw’ leaf arrangement.

The dead leaves hang in skirts, providing a sanctuary for wrens, bats, mice and lizards. The ripe orange fruits are a favourite food of sulphur-crested cockatoos.

Aboriginal people use the leaves of this pandanus for weaving baskets and mats. The large clusters of woody nuts, madjamairerri, contain seeds that are eaten raw or roasted.

Speargrass

This tall grass lines Kakadu’s lowlands in the late tropical summer (February-March), when its flower spikes can grow up to 4 metres high.

It gets its name from the spear-like shape of its sharp, pointed seeds.

These seeds are harvested by ants and provide an important food source for birds such as finches.

In Banggerreng time, around April each year, the ‘knock em down storms’ arrive and flatten the speargrass ahead of another dry season.

Kapok bush

This small native tree has the most beautiful yellow flowers, which appear in the dry season as the plant loses its leaves. The flowers develop into green capsules, then harden and turn brown. The capsules split open to release a cotton wool-like material called kapok to which the seeds are attached.

Aboriginal people have developed many uses for this plant known as Andjedj. We eat the flowers raw or cooked and use the roots of the young plant as a food source between September and December.

Kapok is used for ceremonial body decorations and the bark of the tree can be used to make string and paint brushes.

Darwin woollybutt

This is a common tree in Kakadu - look for dark woolly bark on the lower half of the tree’s trunk, with smooth white bark on the upper trunk and branches. It is known as Andjalen

This tree is a calender tree - a tree that helps Aboriginal people determine the season and what work they need to do. At the beginning of the cold dry season (May-June) the woollybutt begins to produce spectacular orange flowers. This tells us that it’s time to start lighting fires, to ‘clean up the country’ and prevent intense wildfires late in the dry season.