I spent three hours on the quad bike yesterday looking for a bull. I bounced over a thousand rocks, bush-bashed through the scrub, negotiated gullies and trudged along ridges. My travels took me past some of the magnificent grasstrees (Xanthorrhoea species) that grow here on Rocky Springs.
The grasstrees (also known as blackboys) are Australian natives that are particularly slow growing, extending only 1 to 3cm per year. We have plants on Rocky over five metres tall so guess how many hundreds of years old they must be?
Young plants grow close to the ground and form a rosette of spiky leaves, but as the plant grows it develops thick trunks and branches. New leaves grow at the top of the tree and old ones usually remain attached, forming a brown skirt.
They send out long vertical flower spikes (up to 2 metres long) and the pale yellow flowers attract masses of butterflies and birds. It is not uncommon to see a whole flock of rainbow lorikeets squabbling over one flower spike. When flowering is complete the spikes darken and remain atop the tree.
Grasstrees are very hardy surviving both bushfire and drought. While fire will burn the leaves it tends to only blacken the trunk, unless very hot, and foliage is quick to return. During times of drought our cattle will eat the leaves, giving the tree a hard prune, but once again recovery is quick when the cattle have alternative feed. It is rumoured that grasstrees can be poisonous to cattle but we have not noticed any problems with our stock.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I did find the bull.