Tag Archives: North America

Yam Daisies

Thanks to information and photographs supplied by blog follower, Ma from Melbourne, I will be more alert for the plant and flower Microseris scapigera or Microseris lanceolata known by indigenous Australians as Yam daisy or Murnong. Ma told me these plants would provide nourishment as I walked.

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The photo above is located on http://www.victoriannativeseed.com.au/?product=yam-daisy . As the flower continues to open, the similarity with our common dandelion becomes obvious, and a number of websites suggest the dandelion head is similar to the seed head of the Yam Daisy.  It seems perfectly understandable that this plant may be referred to as the native dandelion and it explains why, when walking in our bushland affected by the intrusion of exotic plants, the possibility of misidentification exists. From Wikipedia I have learned that ‘the Tasmanian form is markedly smaller than the mainland Australian form’.

According to http://www.anbg.gov.au/gardens/visiting/exploring/aboriginal-trail  ‘This small perennial plant … has a radish-shaped tuber, which is renewed each year. In the spring the plant forms a yellow flower-head like a dandelion, and in the summer the leaves die off and the tuber becomes dormant. The tubers were cooked in baskets in an earth oven, producing a dark sweet juice which was much liked.’

The Yam Daisy has offered a traditional source of food for indigenous Australians. Wikipedia claims the tubers were ‘prepared by roasting or pit baking; the taste is described as “sweet with a flavour of coconut’.  Sounds yummy to me! The website http://www.parksaustralia.gov.au/botanic-gardens/pubs/aboriginal-plantuse.pdf tells us that the ‘Yam Daisy was a most important staple food. Women dug the roots with digging sticks and then roasted them in baskets in an earth oven. Digging for roots turned over the soil and thinned out the root clumps, two ways of encouraging plant production. Aboriginal people didn’t take the lot or there’d be none left for next time! Aboriginal people believed that the roots of ‘murnong’ should not be collected before the plants flowered. This was probably because during the drier winter period before springtime flowering, the roots would not be fully developed.’

Women digging roots of yam daist State LIb of Vic

The drawing above by J.H. Wedge (1835), showing women digging roots of the Yam Daisy, is held in the collection of the State Library of Victoria. You can see a detailed drawing of a digging stick at https://www.anbg.gov.au/aborig.s.e.aust/roots.bulbs.html.

According to https://tasmanica.wordpress.com/tag/yam-daisy/ ‘… the Yam Daisy (Microseris lanceolata) or ‘Murnong’ as it is known by tuber hunting aborigines on the mainland, has a convoluted history. This makes it a subject of ecological and evolutionary interest to biologists. Its closest relatives are found in western North America. Based on morphological and chromosome studies, the Yam Daisy probably came about by the hybridization of two American species followed by long distance dispersal – quite a distance I might add. So it goes that aborigines were eating foods of American origin way back. This marvellous feat of intercontinental dispersal has been confirmed more recently by studies using DNA extracted from the chloroplasts (cpDNA) of American and the Australian/New Zealand species of Microseris (Vijverberg et al. 1999).’

In my walks along the Derwent River, I have seen these Yam Daisy flowers from time to time. Of course, next time I will look at the plants more closely.

Wild West with Ray Mears

Blog reader, Be, alerted me to the third in a BBC program series, ‘Wild West with Ray Mears’. This episode focused on mountains and followed Mears travelling through the Appalachians, the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada to evaluate the landscape and its effect on the early European settlers as they moved west in North America.  Be indicated there was river edge walking and this reminded her of my quest to walk along the Derwent River in Tasmania – so I was eager to watch the documentary.

Ray Mears and Wild West DVD cover

I found that Ray Mears did access various rivers and streams to emphasize parts of his story, but direct connections to my walking project were slight. However, I found his story to be important because it has prompted me to ask new questions about the Derwent River and its most recent European settler history.  Hopefully others have already conducted research and can supply me with some answers – any leads will be welcome.

  • After initial settlement in Van Diemen’s Land at Risdon on the Derwent River in 1803, what was the nature of the westward push along the Derwent River by European settlers? Do we have names of the people and families of those who moved west? What are the dates associated with these movements?  What are their stories?
  • Why did they move along the River? Did they stop and set up camp, house or agricultural property? Do those buildings or farming properties still exist?  Is the land now in private or organisational hands or is it Crown Land? Or were people only passing through?  If so, what was their intended destination? Did people moving inland along the Derwent find some parts of the wilderness edging the River made their further progress impossible so that they moved away from the River? What are the movement stories?
  • To what extent was the River used for transport between Lake St Clair and New Norfolk? Where and when? What was transported on the River? Can anyone name ships/boats that were used? Were there recognised ferries across the River above New Norfolk?  I know the Derwent River has a series of rapids further towards the source.  Did these inhibit river travel?
  • In the rivers of the United States’ Rockies mountains, the ‘mountain men’ trapped beavers for their fur. Their fur was used to create a strong felt which could be used for those increasingly tall hats that were fashionable in the 18th century. What was the nature of any trade in possum skins and those of other animals that might have persuaded hunters to walk the Derwent River?  What are their stories?
  • Massive removal and usage of natural resources supported the westward movement of European settlers across America. When did forestry operations and logging commence west of Hobart in the Derwent Valley and how was the Derwent River used to support those operations? What mining expeditions and investigations were made along the Derwent River? When and by whom?  What were the outcomes of these searches and trials and finds?

Ray Mears met with a muleteer who explained why he loved being in the wilderness: ‘I leave no trace as I pass and just move through like a shadow’.  I hope that is how I walk.

Reliving GASP and MONA with a new walk along the Derwent River

On Stages 9 and 10 of my walk along the Derwent River, I passed the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and the Glenorchy Arts and Sculpture Park (GASP).  Yesterday I had the opportunity to introduce two international visitors to these important arts structures.

Mid-morning I met with a follower of my blog, De from upstate New York and her Arizona cousin Ke as we were chauffeured thanks to Ma, from the centre of Hobart to our starting point near the Derwent Entertainment Centre.

Our excursion started from the Pavilion at the southern end of the Glenorchy Arts and Sculpture Park (GASP) near the Derwent Entertainment Centre.  Do you remember my photos of that surprise pink glass wall?

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From a distance and approaching this structure, it looks dull, industrial and disused. But just as I had felt during my walk, my two new international co-walkers were amazed once we arrived at the site. Quite delightful and I have no doubt De will be displaying her own photos on https://deescribesblog.wordpress.com/ when she has time.

Then we started strolling and rolling along the bike/pedestrian path towards the slatted walkways with their colourful striped edges.  Many photos were clicked every time we reached a new striped walkway with a different set of colours.

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De gets around in a motorised wheelchair so when she spotted a scooter with its dinghy trailer (see photo below) waiting for its owner to return from their boat out on the Derwent River, she stopped in amazement. We talked about how good security seemed to be locally.  The scooter owner had left his/her shoes, helmet and other personal items, and despite a security strap set up to prevent movement, we all knew that enterprising thieves seem to carry bolt cutters with them these days.  But all was well yesterday.

scooter

Gradually clouds disappeared, the mountain looked sharp and much of the sky was blue.

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Glorious.  After a very cold North American winter, De soaked up the sunshine as the day warmed and we did everything to stay outdoors that we could.

We continued along the foreshore and turned towards the highway when we reached the Montrose High School. Then we were onto the bike/pedestrian track past Rosetta and into Berriedale before advancing up the entrance incline to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).  Along the way we admired the new autumnal colours of the Moorilla grape vines beside the road.

Vineyards

A visit to the exhibitions at MONA requires descent into cavernous spaces below ground so we decided to enjoy a lunch break first.  Despite the busyiness of the café directly above the museum, De motored through gaps in the visitors and took us outside into the open air where tables and chairs are set on the lawn. We admired great views up, down and across the Derwent River.

Our sparkling Moorilla wines were crisp and delicious, and the food choices were expansive.  De and I settled on a soba noodle with spring peas and pickled ginger salad, and Ke tucked into an Italian summer salad which included a great variety of ingredients dressed with the best local olive oil. Ducks and peacocks were out and about, seemingly comfortable with the thousands of visitors that come to MONA each week.

Satisfied by lunch we returned inside and took the lift to the bottom floor of MONA. Over the next couple of hours we wandered through the three levels of exhibits before De and Ke found the upstairs bookshop. The wonderful conclusion to our visit came when De spotted a spectacle outside.  They left the building and, along with a throng of tourists, took photographs of a huge unblemished and bright rainbow crossing over the entire River.

It was a great pleasure to show non-Tasmanians a small part of where I have been along the Derwent River, and De and Ke’s enjoyment enhanced mine. Thanks for your company and best wishes De for your conference presentation in Burnie tomorrow encouraging people to understand there are few limits other than those we set ourselves.

Denise leaving MONA

Both De and Ke gave me permission to include their photos in this blog.