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Bush Food – Indigenous Australia – Iconography and Symbols
Bush Banana – Aboriginal Symbols / Bush Food

Bush Banana (Marsdenia australis) – known as langkwe in the Eastern Arrernte language.

Bush Banana (Marsdenia australis)
Bush Banana (Marsdenia australis) © Greg Sully

The bush banana is a climbing woody vine found growing on other shrubs and trees, and often difficult to see among the trees own leaves. It has been seen growing over acacia, red mulga, native orange, corkwood hakea and a cassia.

The bush banana has pinkish flowers, and thick narrow leaves that grow from a short stalk. The fruiting pod is pear-shaped, hence its other common names of Native pear, Silky pear.

  • Common Name
    • Bush banana, Doubah, Native pear, Silky pear, Green vine.
  • Where Found
    • Found in Western Australia, South Australia and throughout Central Australia.

An important Aboriginal food, whilst all parts of the bush banana plant are eaten, the sweet flower and young fruits are eaten raw, being the most favoured parts of the plant. The young seeds taste like a crunchy sweet pea. The seeds can also be lightly roasted for consumption. When the pods matures, it consists mainly of bitter seeds and their plumes. The seeds are discarded and only the thick outer rind eaten. The shoots and young leaves are also eaten, whilst the older leaves are eaten after being steamed. Even the roots are eaten during times of food shortage. The only parts not eaten are the woody stems and fine roots.

Mass tangle of the bush banana vine
Mass tangle of the bush banana vine growing on a ironwood tree © Greg Sully

The Bush Banana is a totemic plant that often features in Aboriginal mythology and can be found in many Aboriginal paintings.

The plant was originally named ‘Leichhardtia australis’ as referenced in the Wildflowers & Plants of Inland Australia by Anne Urban. Its current name ‘Marsdenia australis’, with ‘Marsdenia’ named after William Marsden (1754-1836), the Irish orientalist and numismatist and ‘australis’ comes from the Latin meaning ‘southern’.

WARNING: Extreme care must be taken when identifying edible food plants and those used in bush medicine. Some bush foods are only edible at different stages of the plant cycle, or when treated appropriately. Bush medicine should only be used under the guidance of a qualified physician. Information here is only provided for research. You should always seek experts in the field to confirm the identification of the plant and whether they are edible or appropriate.

  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Phylum: Charophyta
  • Class: Equisetopsida
  • Subclass: Magnoliidae
  • Superorder: Asteranae
  • Order: Gentianales
  • Family: Apocynaceae
  • Genus: Marsdenia
  • Species: M. australis
  • Binomial name: Marsdenia australis