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Issue 9: Sep-Oct 1998


hibiscusHibiscus and Hibiscus like Plants

The cover photograph and all photos on this page were taken by Geoff Keena. All of these species grow well in the Keena's SE. Qld garden in spite of originating in a wide range of habitats across mainland Australia. They are grown without fertilisers or sprays and rely on natural rainfall alone.

The plants:

1. Hibiscus heterophyllus

Native Rosella. A free-flowering shrub to small tree which grows to around 6m with large lobed or entire dark green leaves. The large white, pink or yellow flowers occur mainly in the warmer months. Fast growing and tolerates moderately heavy frosts. Needs well drained soil in a sunny or semi-shady position. Regular tip pruning prevents plants from becoming sparse.

2. Hibiscus splendens

Native Hollyhock Tree. A large shrub reaching 2 to 5m with prickly sterns and large lobed or entire silvery-grey leaves. The large flowers are various shades of pink and are profuse in spring to summer. Fast growing and tolerates moderately heavy frosts. Needs well drained soil in a sunny position. Regular tip pruning prevents plants from becoming sparse.

3. Alyogyne huegelii

Native Hibiscus. Grows from 1to 2.5m tall with deeply lobed leaves to 7 cm. The flowers are usually mauve to lilac to purple but there are white and pink forms available. The flowers are profuse in spring to summer. Very fast growing and frost hardy. Will grow in well drained soil in a sunny or semi-shady position. Regular tip pruning prevents plants from becoming sparse.

4. Alyogyne hakeifolia

Red Centred Hibiscus. Grows from 1to 3m tall with dark green needle-like foliage. The form shown on the cover has mauvish-pink flowers with a red-centre in spring. Very fast growing. Needs well drained soil in a sunny or semi-shady position.

5. Gossypium sturtianum

Sturt's Desert Rose, the floral emblem of the Northern Territory, is an excellent ornamental shrub to 2m tall. The pink to mauve flowers are up to 4 cm across and flowering can be profuse. The branches and leaves have dark oil glands. Leaves may be green or glaucous. Plants are widespread over much of the interior of Australia and this species is ideal for areas with low rainfall. Needs well drained soil in a sunny position. Frosts may cause severe damage.


Hibiscus divaricatus

A large shrub which grows to around 5m with prickly stems and lanceolate dark green leaves. The large bright yellow flowers are produced continuously during the warmer months. Fast growing. Tolerates light frosts only. Needs well drained soil in a sunny position. Regular tip pruning prevents plants from becoming sparse.

Formation Meeting for a National Body

On March 20th of this year, a formation meeting will be held in Brisbane to initiate a national bushfoods body. At the First National Conference for New Rural Industries held in Perth last year's keynote speaker Dr David McKinna stated that the first critical success factor is an effective industry association. He stated that such an association needs to represent the vast majority if not all of the stakeholders.

It's been talked about, reported on, researched and canvassed - but a peak industry body (PIB) for the bushfoods industry has not yet happened. This call for a formation meeting is not taken lightly - RIRDC (the Rural Industries Research and Development Corp). a number of regional associations and, most particularly Ken Dyer, have put much time and effort into formulating a framework for a national body. Perhaps the time has come to simply 'do it'.

The proposed body will represent as broad a cross section of people as possible.

It will be open to individuals and regional producer groups.

It will encourage participation from such sectors as processing, wild harvesting, training, conservation! revegetation, tourism, research, nurseries and others using or promoting Australian native foods.

Payments to and voting power within this peak body should be based on an individual/individual business basis either directly or via regional associations.

The body must have Aboriginal involvement, both as individuals and regional groups. It will be formed as an incorporated association and interim directors elected. A constitution, model rules, aims and objectives and a name will be agreed to. Mum In the first year, prior to the first AGM and elections, it will carry out as many of the functions of a PIB as possible, concentrating on items for early action that are agreed on, which might include:

* support for the establishment of State or bioregional groups

* formalising and refining lines of communication and information within and across the sector

* prioritising R&D needs, as determined by the industry

* the active seeking of funds and private investment for this R&D

* the establishment of links with government and academic bodies

to faciltate necessary R&D

If possible, subcomittees will be formed to look at the following:

* standards and labelling

* aboriginal involvement

* marketing and media

* communication/information

* business planning

* promotion

Here, for discussion is a draft set of aims and objectives:

a. to give the bushfood sector a single, authoritative voice

h. to promote bushfoods and bushfood products both nationally and internationally

c. to facilitate the flow of information within the sector

d. to establish production and product standards

e. to prioritise issues and R&D needs /br the sector through extensive consultation with members

f to establish a framework which will encourage:

- new growers to enter the industry

- existing growers to re/inc and share their knowledge

- distribution of product

It is intended to utilise phone- conferencing, net-conferencing, previously submitted papers and proxies to make the meeting open to as wide a range of groups and individuals as possible. Please contact the magazine for further information and/or a draft set of model rules, The next issue of the magazine (last week in February) will contain a pro-forma for those wishing to be involved, proxy forms, venue and time details

Contact the magazine on:

Ph: 07 5494 3812.

Fax: 07 54 94 3506


I too support a national body for bushfoods to deal with those issues beyond the mandate of individuals or regional associations such as research management and liaison, labelling and standards, PBR, international liaison or promotion. In further consideration of Peak Industry Body (PIB) articles in 'Issue 8, 1 have comments that might be relevant, having mused and worked on this goal over the last five years trying to defend the industry from government imposed centralised organizational structures.

Name and Scope: Typically national bodies try to do too much and create too large a mandate for themselves or create an entity with insufficient focus I don't believe we need a broad peak body that includes a lot of peripheral players like nurseries or retailers! wholesalers Is every restaurant a member of the Egg Producers' Association? The serious vested interests who have made investments in bushfoods are the producers. I'd like to see value-adding processors included with producers, as their interests are so closely aligned. Thus, the name proposed might well be replaced by one with a broader (but not too broad) scope and a recognition of the expected industry collaboralion:

Australian Buslifood Producers - much clearer and simpler.

Membership: One of the critical faults of the recently deceased ANBIC was that it limited membership to associations only This is unfortunately recurring in Gil Freeman's letter to the editor (Issue 8). There are several problems with this approach to creating a basis for a national organisation;

1. While we are clearly choosing a largely bioregional scale on which to organist ourselves, there are many regions of the country without regional associations. I reside in one and I've talked to many others It would be detrimental to the eventual development of their regional organisation to force people to join an outside, distant regional group in order to have a voice. Any bushfood P113 must start out with representation of all industry participants, including independents

2. Small, volunteer associations, especially in their early days, vary greatly in size, expertise and effectiveness There is yet to be a proven track record of stability and continuity in bushfood organisations, One recent problem was the lack of input to the draft R&D plan compiled by RIRDC.

3. No single bushfood industry participant should be forced to join any particular association in order to 'gain representation'. I can think of a number of large players who, for a variety ofreasons, choose not to participate in an existing regional group. On the other hand, some people may prefer to have their regional associations represent them.

4. Having membership restricted to associations limits the resource base of expertise to run the PIB and also limits the potential funding base, As well, when directors of a PIB are executive members of regional groups there may be a conflict of interest or at least a confusion of loyalties as well as increased demands on the person's time. An interesting current model that has chosen individual membership is OFA (Organic Federation of Australia.

Membership should be open to any genuine (commercial not hobby) individual or other legal entity producing or processing bushfood

Any move towards proportional representation must be carefully considered Above all, it must be realised that, while a national body is certainly required to oversee Government funded research and determine matters such as labelling standards, PBR, quality systems etc, most bushfood activity is done at the enterprise or regional association level. Let's not place too much faith or responsibility with a PIB and let's keep it representative.

Larry Geno Agroecology Associates

Northern Rivers Bushtucker Foods Central Queensland

I am a subscriber to Bushfoods magazine & realise it is primarily aimed at growers. In the near friture I will be moving to acreage & will have room to grow a number of bushfbods for my own use, although [live in Brisbane & will be limited as many bushfoods don't suit our climate, I am a bit of a foodie & love cooking & have been dying to try some of the recipes found in "Tukka" & "Wild Lime". However, I have a major problem.

I purchased "Tukka" when it was first released several years ago, & failing to find a supplier in Brisbane ofmanybushfoods, I wrote to Gundabluey requesting further info on their products as suggested in the rear of the book they never returned anything despite having sent an addressed & stamped envelope. I have since tried contacting Noel Joliffe by phone, left messages on answering machine to no reply, sent faxes - no reply Then I tried going to the address given - it seems he has moved or the business has failed as now Telstra cannot connect me to that number. I keep getting failure notices from Muntari's email address, I don't even know ifthey sell that sort of produce but I look at any avenue! I placed an order on the bush supply internet site 3 weeks ago no one has contacted me repayment so I can only assume it has gone the way of all my enquiries. I then sent an email requesting further infb & asking if they could actually supply a singI e purchaser like myself That was aweek& reply! It seems that I will have to rely on my own produce. I thought you might be interested in my efforts as I would think that the bushfood industry is doomed to thilure if this is the sort of service that is provided! I realise that probably most of the suppliers I have contacted are wholesalers, but it may have been in their interests to at least reply & say sorry we can't help you however you can purchase your supplies at these places! Lets face it - an industry needs the small people like me also to survive.

Thanks for your time

Lisa Chadfield

PS: Just to let you know that someone does actually want to sell bushfoods. I managed to get email through to Muntari & Brian King says that they do sell retail but has warned me transport costs may be expensive. At least he has replied.

Lisa Chadfield

Research News:

Bushfood Safety Project

As part of the RIRDC-funded research pro~aimnes to assist the bushfood industry, Professor Ron Wills of the Department of Food Technology, University of Newcastle, and Drs Merv and Ewlyn Hegarty are preparing a report on bushfood safety. Research began early in 1998 and will continue over three years. During 1999, a range of chemical analyses of at the 10 most important commercial bushfoods will be conducted at Newcastle.

Excessive or prolonged over-use of any kind of food, including bushfood, may produce unwanted effects. However, bushfoods, unlike common staple foods, are fairly new to commercial production, and often not much is known about their chemistry. In addition, cultivars selected from different wild stocks can vary considerably in chemical composition, taste and quality The Hegartys - a toxicologist and a botanist respectively - are reviewing written information on sources, uses, chemistry and within-species variation in the quality and taste of bushfoods, as they are related to their safe use. They are also seeking personal anecdotes (with confidences respected) of any adverse effects which may have involved a particular bushfood.

People who may be able to offer personal comments or questions on bushfood safety, to assist the project to a successful and useful outcome, are invited to contact the Hegartys at Plantchem Pty LId, 5 Jenkinson St Indooroopilly Q4068, phone! fax 0733783530.

Naturally Australian, Naturally Guaranteed.

Margaret A, Bailey.

Articles and other material in the August edition of the Australian Bushfoods magazine pinpointed some of the concerns I have.

Ken Dyer referred to "Groups primarily representing 'typical' bushfood growers large and small." (Australian Bushfoods magazine, Vol 8. page 15). As a former executive member of ARBIA (Australian Rainforest Bushfood Industry Association), I became aware of the wide range of bushfood growers. They can be categorised as follows;

1 growers on a very large scale - often indirectly as participants in investment schemes, usually based on a single species

2 large scale growers contracted to a central operator - with plantings of a single species numbered in several thousand

3 large scale private growers - also with plantings counted in thousands and also mostly of one major species

4 medium scale growers -with plantings counted in hundreds rather than thousands, either concentrated on one species or of a number of species

5 small scale growers - with plantings of fewer than one hundred, often of several species

6 home gardeners - with a few bushfood plants in their back yard

7 Growers -often small to medium scale, with bushfoods grown in association with another enterprise, eg farm forestry, ecotourism, small scale processing.

Out of these categories those who are independent, individual, commercial growers have specific needs and, I believe, need their own association;

Firstly, who are the commercial growers? As Rob Fletcher pointed our in his article (Australian Bushfoods magazine, Vol 8. page 20) "To plant a new crop species without knowing what the product will be and who will buy it, is not a commercial undertaking but a hobby." Commercial growers are therefore those people with a Clear and well, researched business and marketing plan and who are economically viable producers. Which of the various categories includes such people. Clearly people in Category 6 are not commercial growers, and there are non-commercial growers in other categories also.

Secondly, who is an independent grower? Those who are simply investors are not, (Category 1) and those growing under contract are not as they will be receiving material and acting on the direction of the contractor. (Category 2).

Thirdly, I also believe that the membership of this association should be for people who are organic or biodynamic farmers certified with the existing certifying bodies, or in conversion. Although many growers are organic or biadynamic by choice many are not. But, as pointed out by Dave Forrest during the bushfood Course given by Wollongbar TAFE, no non-organic pesticides or herbIcides are labelled for use with bushfood species and therefore all growers should be organic or biodynamic. Growers who are not organic or biodynamic will no doubt apply the standard horticultural practices to their bushfood crops. But those who are organic or biodynamic growers need to work together to develop appropriate practices and establish and maintain standards for these crops. This will also have marketing implications and, I believe, benefits. The Association should be structured with sections for each individual species. Any individual member would be able to belong to one or more sections. Each section would provide information and develop standards for that species. One that provided by the Australian Quandong Industry Association (Australian Bushfoods magazine, Vol 8. page 29) with information for the intending and practicing Quandong grower of the sort that all growers need. This type of information, and more, is needed for all species.

Information is also needed on standards. Over the last two or three years standards in the food industry have become far more stringent than in the early days of growing bushfoods. For the serious commercial grower, quality assurance will have to be taken on board despite the costs involved. Members would also need to be kept informed of all the regulatory and legislative requirements for sale inter- and intra- state and for export and other current and any new Australian and New Zealand food standards.

The main purpose of the Association would be to certify that member met the standards set and thus provide a guarantee of the quality of product purchased from its members (both raw product and processed). The Association would not be a marketing body but could have a promotional function and serve as a clearing house for information on supply and demand.

I have stressed that this Association would be for commercial growers. I think wild harvesters would do well to develop a similar type of organisation. There is room also for more generalist bodies, encompassing a range of interests to which people who are not involved in commercial production could belong.

Two other related issues were implicit in the questionnaire in Issue 8 of the magazine, one of which was future directions of the industry and the other being the question of the name - Bushfood or ? In relation to future directions, there would be considerable benefits in making stronger links with the current moves to support the development of regional cuisines, it would also be useful to examine developments in other agricultural industries, particularly the wine and dairy industries.

In both of the wine and dairy industnes there is the gradation from mass market generic production to the small scale, high value, niche market production, which is usually identified by its place of origin, and which provides the highest profile for the industry.At this level, the bushfoods industry needs its greatest input, support and development. High quality/ high value products, identified on a regional basis could be associated with the development of regional cuisines in the mn-up to the second "Tasting Australia" event in Adelaide in 1999. This event provides a great opportunity for raising the profile of and establishing markets for bushfoods.

This brings me to the question of the name - Bushfoods or what? I have found that using the word bushfood mostly elicits a very negative response. Only Australians use the term 'bush' with the meaning that we give to it. So, first, the Australian meaning has to be explained and then the sense that these are survival foods for when you are lost in the desert has to be overcome. My view is - forget it. Let us talk instead about Australia's own natural food resource and give them their individual names. Afler all, the macadamia industry promotes macadamia and Tea Tree oil is promoted as such, while we in Australia manage to buy foreign foods with their own names, for example Pak Choy

In summary, I think it is important that we grow and produce Australia's own natural food resources, preferably in ways that are appropriate to the Australian environment, indeed this could be an important selling point we promote individual products by their own names identif~'ing them on a regional basis: and we establish an industry Association oflndependent Commercial Organic and Biodynamic Growers of Australian Food Plants (AICOBGAFP), with the structure I have outlined for the purpose of gudranteeing the highest quality ofproduce. I hope that the points I have made on these issues will generate further discussion - and actions.

Hibsicus and Hibsicus like Plants:

Eating your Blooming Garden

Colleen Keena

Regular readers may remember an article "A Roselia by any Other Name ... is Not the Same. This article was written by Colleen Keena whose love of Hibiscus heterophyllus began over fifty years ago as she caught glimpses of the large white flowers that lit up the edges of the rain- forest on steep hillsides near Wollongong, N.S.W. Her fascination with this species has continued, particularly as she has seen plants in the Brisbane area flowering profusely for prolonged periods, in spite oftough conditions. Her interest was fostered through the chance acquisition of a plant labelled Hibiscus di var/ca/us x .splendens but which grew like H. di var/ca/us, A seedling from this plant produced flowers that were almost twice the size of the parent and which had the grey, felty leaves ofH. ~spiendens. This began a program of deliberate crosses between species once other species such as H. heterophyllus and H. 3plendcns were obtained. Plants were raised from seed banks maintained by the Society for Growing Australian Plants or from commercial suppliers, as well as being purchased from nurseries in several states. Plants were also collected across a large geographical area in Queensland and also in N.S.W. with a particular focus on the best specimen and also on plants which were in any way different from the other plants at a particular locality.

Now that the beetle which makes "shot holes" on the leaves has been found to be widespread, resistant plants are being sought.

There has been a problem obtaining plants from nurseries, particularly accurately labelled plants, with two, identical plants purchased from different sources Ia- bell ed as Hibiscus he/crop hyllus and as H. splendens. This difficulty has led to discussions with Hibiscus World at Caboolture (0754951256)011 making a wider range of correctly labelled plants more readily available, Hibiscus World hasjust begun propagating species such as H. he/crophylius, H. .splendcn.s; H. divarica/us and A lyogyne huegelii in a range of colours and are also propagating crosses between species which have been developed by Colleen. The crosses have been selected for colour, for extended flowering periods, with some flowering all year, as well as for a range of sizes. All perform well in pots. The first plants are expected to be available commercially in 1999.

The previous article on Native Rosella was accompanied by already published recipes but as Colleen would rather be in the garden than the kitchen she had not actually tried these. The article by John Wrench in Issue 6 made her think about using hibiscus petals to produce a "jam" and the photo on the cover shows the result. She has used flowers from all the species pictured on the cover and from all the crosses. Ifusing only hibiscus- like plants such asAlyogyne and Gossypium, the recipe may need to be varied slightly. As John Wrench wrote, no matter what the initial colour ofthe petals, the final product will be a brilliant rosella colour, The recipe (Page 34) is simple in terms ofpreparation and using the microwave simplifies the cooking process. There is even a break in the middle. This allows the mixture to cool completely and prevents it boiling all over the microwave in the final stages. The break usually means into the garden for Colleen and out with the camera for husband Geoff.

The editor has tried the preserve. She did not even wait for hers to cool before sampling the delicious flavour, The Rosella article noted that hibiscus flowers make a colourful edible ornament or a salad, that buds can be pickled or boiled as a vegetable and flowers can be stuffed, made into fritters or into tea. The editor is hoping other readers may wish to share their experience with hibiscus or hibiscus-like plants.

Not Just a Beautiful Bloom

Colleen and Geoff Keena, Qid.

The flowers on the cover and inside cover of this issue are all member of the Family lvlalvctceae. There are a number of economically important members of this family. Some are best known as food plants, e.g. Hibiscus esculcq,jus or okra. Others are grown for their fibres, e.g. Hibiscus cwuiabinus or kenaf Perhaps the best known is cotton, which isa species ofGossypium. There are other lesser known species which are still important crops, particularly in tropical countries. Hibiscus tiliaceus produces fibre and is also used to treat a range of ailments (as well as making jam). The introduced Hibiscus sabdar~/j2i or rosella produces not just the colourfhl calyces which are made intojam,jelly or cordials but the fibres can be used for paper pulping and the leaves as a protein feed for animals. One species, Ahelrno.schzjs or aibika, is grown especially for its leaves. It is eaten as a green vegetable in countries such as Papua New Guinea. Abelmoschus manihot is a shrub which occurs in northern Queensland and in tropical Asia. The form native to north-eastern Qld has stems covered with prickly hairs and a calyx with simple soft hairs. Abelmoschus manihot grows to Sm in Northern Queensland but only to 2m high in the Brisbane area. It is a herbaceous perennial or annual shrub with a single central stem and short sparse branches. Growth may die back in autumn but most plants reshoot after winter Abelmoschus manihot is a hardy plant which prefers a sunny aspect with rich moist well drained soil with nutrients for vigorous growth. The plant is suitable for tub culture.

The large, up to 15 cm, flowers are a brilliant lemon yellow with deep purple centres borne on long pedicels at the apex of the plant. Flowers are produced mainly in Autumn although there are some flowers in spring. While the large yellow flowers are very ornamental, its importance is that it is one of the world's most nutritious leafiy vegetables because of its high protein content, There can be big differences in leaf shape, colour and production but leaves are usually palmate, about 10 cm across. In PNG, plants are propagated from stem cuttings with harvesting commencing 2-3 months after planting and continuing for 1-2 years, Until recently in Australia it has been difficult to obtain plants with tasty leaves but seeds of a good eating variety are now available from Green Harvest, 52 Crystal Waters, via Maleny, Q. 4552, (07) 5494 4676.

In PNG, the young leaves are picked and are cooked in coconut cream or water. They are also fried. The leaves make a tasty addition to an omelette which is our favourite way of using this plant. Leaves may be added to soups. The petals can be used in salads or added to hibiscus preserve. A coffee substitute can be made from the roasted seeds but protect hands when handling the seed pods as the seed capsules are very hairy and the stiff hairs can cause discomfort if handled. Seeds germinate more quickly if nicked or abraded Sow seed in autumn in frost-free areas, otherwise in spring.

The addition of this plant to tropical and sub-tropical gardens not only enhances the landscape but can provide the gardener with a highly nutritious leaiV vegetable.


I. Elliot, W.R. & Jones, Dl, (1980-88) Encyclopaedia of Australian Plants Suitable for Cultivation, Volume 2, Lothian, Melbourne

2. Hale, P., Williams B. (1977) Liklik Buk. The Melanesian Council of Churches, Wirui Press, PNG.

3. Williams, K. (1979) Native Plants of Queensland, Vol. 1. Cranbrook Press, QId.

Hibiscus & Hibiscus Like Plants - Colleen Keena
Formation of National Body - from the Editor
Research Results
More on a National Body - Margaret Bailey
More on Hibiscus - Colleen Keena
Not Just a Beautiful Bloom - Colleen Keena
A Look at Standards - some suggestions from the editor
Simplicity of Good Design - A look at a bushfood plantation
Small is beautiful - John Wrench
The Atherton Raspberry - Larry Geno, grower
Wonder of Raspberry - Larry Geno
American Wild Foods - John King in the US
Observations: Warrigal Greens - The Editor learns by experience
Suckers, Sex and Seedlings - Dr Barbara Randall on the Quandong
Marketing the Bush food Industry - Vie Cherikoff reports
Comment - Larry Geno
Book reviews - 'You can have your permaculture and eat it too'
Book review - The Quandong Recipe Book
What's Fruiting Now?
Famous Palates (Olivia Newton-John etc)
More research News