British Museum

Stop 1    

Balga, Xanthorrhoea preissii Surviving fire West Lawn

Richard Wilford, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, explains the qualities of the Balga

Bushfires are lethal for both people and plants. However, some Australian plants have adapted to not only survive fire, but use it to help them grow. Fire causes balga trees to flower – a long, straight flower stalk sprouts from among the grass-like leaves at the top of the blackened, fire-resistant trunk. The stalk is covered with tiny flowers, which produce a sweet nectar – delicious when made into a drink. Indigenous Australians used dry flower stalks to rub together and make fire. In some areas, fire was used in a controlled way to promote new growth.