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Top End seasonal calendarTop End Seasonal Calendar


Each month we bring you scenes and description from western Arnhem Land or other parts of the Top End - showing the country, bush food, and other aspects of Aboriginal life. On this page you can visit:

The main photographs and text are by Wayne Miles, an outstanding photographer from Darwin.

May - Harvest from the Waters

In the months of May and June, the time for cool weather, a spectacular beauty carpets the receding floodwaters. The billabongs and lagoons of the Top End are covered in water lilies, layer upon layer of colour ranging from pure white to blues, purples and pinks.

Waterlilies on Top End billabong

By now the humidity has disappeared and the weather is drier and cooler. Daybreak mists still hug the valleys and plains, home to the majestic termite mounds. The mist will stay until the daily south easterly winds blow it away. In this swirl of movement, most native plants turn yellow, their seeds blowing across the land. This is a time for Aboriginal harvesting of many of the bush foods.

The seeds of the Water Lily (Nymphaea) have always been a valuable food source for the Aboriginal people of the north, being rich in oil oil and carbohydrates. They may be eaten raw, but are mostly roasted while still contained in the fruits. The seeds are also collected in large quantities, ground into flour and baked into a favourite damper bread. The flower stems and tubers are highly regarded and are both eaten raw.

June - Yellow Grass and Pandanus

As well as being the start of the early Dry season, June is a time when the first fires of early burning make their way through the bush, lightly charring the landscape and bringing a renewed time for food gathering and specialised hunting. In the tropical woodlands, swamp margins and open forests, stands of Pandanus trees thrive before the annual burn off. In the past, the Pandanus was one of the most widely used plants of the hunter-gatherer societies of Northern Australia.

Fires burning in Pandanus
Burning Pandanus woodland near Darwin

In the months from June to October, the oily Pandanus seeds were eaten raw. At the base of the barbed leaves is another excellent food - a fleshy cabbage-like carbohydrate.

As well as having nutritional values, the Pandanus can be used for a whole variety of medicinal purposes, especially the healing of skin sores and sore throats and the curing of headaches.

Pandanus and fruit
Pandanus and fruit


Basket made with Pandanus fibre
Basket made with
Pandanus fibre

The leaves of the Pandanus plant also a useful fibre for weaving, especially for the basket weavers of Maningrida in Arnhem Land. The green, V-shaped leaf is first split along its centre and the outer spines removed, then the remaining parts are split into thin regular strips.

Pandanus is used for weaving coil baskets, fish traps, ceremonial arm bands and dillybags.

Back to Seasonal calendar entry page


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