• Thu. Jun 8th, 2023

what mungee, the world’s largest mistletoe, can teach us about treading lightly


May 26, 2023

Noongar Nation of southwestern Australia is house to the world’s largest parasitic plant, a mighty mistletoe that blooms every single and every single December. That is why it is ordinarily identified as WA’s Christmas Tree. But it also goes by other names, mungee and moodjar. And it holds superior significance for Noongar people such as the Merningar people of the south coast.

Although the exceptional biology and charisma of the species (Nuytsia floribunda) has been recognised by Typical Owners for millennia, such wealthy Indigenous know-how is barely identified to Western science. Our study group requires three generations of Merningar alongside non-Indigenous scientists. In our new study, we set out to learn mungee’s physiology, ecology and evolution from every single Indigenous and Western science perspectives.

The plant’s capacity to access a wide array of sources is outstanding, enabling it to prosper in the hostile, infertile, but biologically wealthy landscapes of southwestern Australia. This is also the case for Noongar people, whose classic diet plan strategy reflects the biological richness of their Nation.

Mungee is a revered teacher to Noongar people, with lessons for us all about living sustainably and in harmony with 1 a various.

three generations of the Merningar Knapp household have contributed to this study: (left to correct) Harrison Rodd-Knapp, Jessikah Woods, her grandmother Lynette Knapp and mother Shandell Cummings, with flowering mungee close to Waychinicup, on Merningar Nation.
Alison Lullfitz, Author provided

Study far much more:
Ancient know-how is lost when a species disappears. It seriously is time to let Indigenous people care for their nation, their way

A sand-loving parasite

Nuytsia floribunda is widespread across Noongar Nation (Boodja) and identified to most Noongar as moodjar. But it is also named mungee by Merningar and other southern Noongar groups. Becoming mostly Merningar, we get in touch with it mungee and use that term appropriate right here.

Mungee is a mistletoe tree that grows up to 10m tall in sandy soils. It is endemic to southwestern Australia, but widespread all via. The parasitic capability of the plant comes from really modified, ring-shaped roots (haustoria) that act like secateurs to mine other plants for water and nutrients.

We utilised “two way science” (cross-cultural ecology) approaches – such as a literature overview, shared recording of visits on Nation, and an author workshop – to investigate mungee far much more entirely than would be attainable by implies of Western science alone.

Study far much more:
To address the ecological crisis, Aboriginal peoples will have to be restored as custodians of Nation

A revered teacher supplying divine guidance

Like other Indigenous Australian know-how systems, Merningar lore is place-mostly primarily based. It inextricably hyperlinks people, distinct regions, other organisms and non-living entities of Nation. Mungee tells distinct stories by implies of precisely exactly where it lives, the plants it lives with, and when it flowers.

The species is extensively held as sacred amongst Noongar peoples. For Merningar, it has the highest status of all plants. Mungee holds substantial lore about how we as humans relate to every single single other and with the planet about us, equivalent to a cornerstone religious text such as the Christian Bible.

For Merningar, mungee is a powerful medium that aids restless spirits move on to the afterlife, identified to us as Kuuranup. This enables these of us nonetheless living to be untroubled by their presence.

Senior elder Lynette describes mungee as her teacher, supplying guidance on how to exist in Merningar Boodja. The annual summer season time flowers represent her ancestors returning to their Nation, reminding her to cherish and respect every single her old people and her Boodja.

Lynette calls the ring-shaped haustoria of mungee her “bush lolly”. Beneath Merningar lore, digging for these sweet treats is not permitted when mungee is flowering. This is when bush lollies are scarce, so the rule is about living inside seasonal constraints.

A closeup photograph showing the specialised ring-shaped root of the mungee tree, tapping into the resources of other plants.

The specialised ring-shaped haustorium of the mungee tree Nuytsia floribundataps into the sources of other plants.
Mike Shayne

An instance of living sustainably

Mungee mainly reproduces by cloning, sending out suckers up to 100m from the parent plant to make identical copies. This final final results in patches of mungee clones gathered collectively in tight-knit populations.

We saw parallels amongst patches of mungee and the communal kinship structures of Noongar society, precisely exactly where household is far much more substantial than people.

Prior to European settlement, extended Noongar households lived in largely separate groups, interconnected with other household groups as portion of a wider geopolitical strategy. We see mungee as a botanical exemplar of putting neighborhood just just before people, for the larger superior.

Mungee accesses water and nutrients by tapping into a wide wide variety of host plants. This diversity of hosts enables mungee to reside in various numerous landscapes. This parallels with the sophisticated, but commonly place-distinct know-how of Noongar peoples across their botanically wealthy Boodja, which has enabled use of a wide wide variety of classic plants.

Living a prosperous life inside environmental boundaries is achieved by conservatively drawing upon a wide wide variety of sources. It offers a lesson for all who reside in dry and infertile regions such as southwestern Australia.

A landscape photo showing the mungee tree in full flower

Mungee in comprehensive flower at Stirling Wide variety National Park, about 300km south-east of Perth.
Steve Hopper

A tree to be celebrated

Mungee’s vibrant orange flowers bring joy to all who witness their show in the course of the celebratory summer season time months in southwestern Australia. The plant’s exceptional biology, ingenuity and charisma has extended been recognised by Noongar peoples and their lore.

Prolific annual flowers are a memorial to the various old people who have cared for their Boodja by implies of millennia. They also remind us to defend the old peoples’ legacy.

To Merningar, mungee is a advantageous teacher and exemplar of prosperous biological (such as human) existence in the southwest Australian worldwide biodiversity hotspot. It has substantially to teach the rest of us, also.

A close-up photo of a thynnid wasp on a mungee flower

Thynnid wasps (flower wasps) on a mungee flower at Torndirrup National Park, 10km south of Albany in WA.
Steve Hopper

Study far much more:
Connecting to culture: here’s what occurred when elders gifted totemic species to college youngsters

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