Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Macrozamia communis

Zamiaceae

Burrawang

Barwang to Bundjalung people

Danger: poisonous seeds, do not touch

Description

Burrawangs belong to a group of plants called cycads. These slow-growing, cone-bearing plants flourished during the time of the dinosaurs (the Mesozoic era) and then all but disappeared 80 million years ago. This cycad has long leaves (70-200 cm) with very sharp pointed leaf segments. Fifty to one hundred leaves can grow from the crown of a trunk. Burrawangs have separate male and female plants. Female cones are 20-45 cm long, 10-20 cm in diameter and contain seeds that are scarlet when ripe. The cylindrical male cones are 20-45 cm long and bear pollen.

Where it is found

Burrawangs occur in open forest on sandy to loamy soils along the New South Wales coast from the Macleay River to Bega and inland to the Goulburn River. They also occur in Queensland.

Uses

  • The plantís highly poisonous red seeds contain starch. Aboriginal people se various methods to treat seeds before eating them. Pounded seeds are washed in running water for some days. The pulp is then made into cakes and roasted. However, there is no evidence that this treatment destroys or even reduces the poisons.

Further information

Click here for further information on Macrozamia communis.

Macrozamia communis
A female Burrawang (Macrozamia communis) with cones. The toxins in cycad seeds can be absorbed through the skin - it is not a good idea to handle them at all. Photo: Ken HIll.

Macrozamia-communis

Macrozamia communis: seeds attached to a cone scale, cone, habit.