Desert pear

The desert pear (Cynanchum floribundum) is a small multi-stemmed shrub growing to about 1m in height with edible fruit. Its leaves are lamina ovate to narrow-lanceolate. The rotate flowers are white and the ripe fruit are green, drying to a pale yellow as they mature. It dies back after flowering, but re-shoots in spring. This is a rare plant, which grows only on sandy soils along drainage lines and dunes. Nowadays, it can be found in about three quarters of Central Australia. The plant can tolerate cool fires, such as those used by the indigenous peoples for tens of thousands of years, but can be destroyed by hot wildfires. The land management techniques practiced by indigenous people indeed involve fire, an element that has a crucial role in many aspects of these communities’ lives (environmental, social, cultural, spiritual…). Using controlled fires, a knowledge that is gradually lost, enabled for example to prevent hot incontrollable wildfires to develop, and helped biodiversity and the land to regenerate. Moreover introduced fauna such as rabbits, camels and cattle and flora, especially grasses and buffel grass in particular, have led to the near extinction of this plant.

The tubers (or roots) of the bush potato are similar to the cultivated sweet potato. They have a sweet taste and are usually juicy. Whilst they are normally cooked in the hot earth beside the fire before being eaten, their high water content makes the raw tuber a valuable resource when there is a prolonged dry period.

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