The mysterious WA Christmas tree
Chances are you've seen the beautiful Western Australian Christmas tree (Nuytsia floribunda) in flower, but you may not know how special the species really is.
The WA Christmas tree/moojar tree has great significance to Noongar culture and people. Ken Macintyre and Barb Dobson from Anthropology from the Shed say:
"When Noongar spokespersons were interviewed by us... the Elders reported that few people today understand the significance of the moojar tree (Nuytsia floribunda) commonly known as the Western Australian Christmas tree. They said that the moojar was regarded as “highly spiritual” because it was associated with the spirits of the dead who according to the ‘old people’ “camped” on the branches and flowers of the tree on their way to Kurannup – the land of the ancestors across the Western ocean. They said to us: ‘We don’t like to go near this tree.’"
The WA Christmas tree is also highly unusual. It has no relatives and is the largest mistletoe in the world, and the only one that grows in the ground rather than on the stems of plants. It's also hemi-parasitic, using it's roots to extract water and nutrients from nearby plants - the roots have even been known to invade PVC-wrapped telephone cables.
WA Christmas trees are under ongoing threat from clearing and livestock damage, and replacements are notoriously difficult to grow. By appreciating and understanding their importance we can help protect them.
Keep an eye out for these unique plants between October and January, and make sure to upload any pictures on iNaturalist.