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Seasons in Aboriginal Culture

Plants respond to the annual cycle of different environmental factors at similar times from year to year and have long been considered important seasonal indicators.

The western calendar is based on four seasons reflecting changes seen throughout the year in Europe in the weather, plants and animals. These photos represent those European seasons. Do you think the Australian seasons match these four categories well?

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Indigenous Australians base their seasons on changes in weather, plants and animals around them, and in celestial patterns. This can mean more or sometimes less than four seasons in a year. We call these observations ‘seasonal indicators’. These seasonal indicators dictated the timing of movements of Aboriginal people from place to place, influenced their activities, the foods they ate and their cultural use of plants and other resources. 

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Below are Herbarium specimen sheets of Australian plants collected by scientists from the Royal Botanic Garden. 

Activities - Seasons in Aboriginal Culture

1. Read about plants

 The image gallery highlights plants used as seasonal indicators. Read about them and choose your favourite.

2. Create some art

Draw a story of your favourite showing the plant and what Aboriginal season it indicates.  Show your drawing to someone else and explain what the plant is, and what it means.

3. Examine the specimens

Look at the herbarium specimen sheets in the gallery above. Record whether they are flowering or not, as well as the time of year they were collected. What other information have the scientists recorded on the sheet?

4. Create a Herbarium

Collect some plant cuttings with both flowers and leaves. Take note of where and when the cuttings were taken, and try to accurately identify the names of the plants. Press and dry your plant cuttings between newspaper sheets, weighted with heavy books. You can now start your own Herbarium collection. Watch the video below for help.

5. A plant life cycle

Research, draw and label the life cycle of one of the plants you’ve collected which is indigenous to your area.