More nonflowering wonders:
Apparently Austral bracken is poisenous to cattle
Bracken fern (Pteridium esculentum) is a hardy native fern, consisting of a tough stem, green fronds and fleshy underground stems or rhizomes. Besides Australia, it is found on a number of continents including Europe and America.
Large amounts of shredded bracken ferns collected in late spring and mixed with manures, are a valuable addition to the compost. They provide an excellent organic source of potash, which has been concentrated from the sandy, potash deficient soils in which they normally grow. Ferns collected later in the growing season are lower in potash and much slower to decompose into humus.
When shredded they are useful for poultry deep litter prior to going into the compost.
A great supply of mulch can be obtained from piles of slashed bracken fern, that has been compacted and allowed to partially breakdown over a six month period.
The tough stems of older ferns make ideal throw away, pea supports. The whole fern provide an ideal shade umbrella over tender seedlings (cauliflowers, broccoli, cabbage, lettuces and silver beet etc) planted out during the hot sunny days of summer.
To control bracken infestations repeated removal of the young fronds will gradually weaken the plants by deleting the food stored in their rhizomes. Spreading concentrated poultry manure will soon cause the decline of a patch of bracken fern. Once the ferns has stopped growing use the ground to grow a healthy crop of organic potatoes.
The foraging Australian aboriginal women sort out the taller and more succulent bracken ferns, which were generally located in the moister wet sclerophyll forests. The moisture allows the growth of a thick, starchy rhizome.
These rhizomes were treated as a staple food, but required substantial preparation before eating. Their preparation for eating involved washing, beating into a paste, moulding into cakes and finally roasting in hot ashes. During times of limited food alternatives, such as when seafood was scarce, these roots became the main food for short periods.
Another important usage were there medicinal properties. The juice from the young fronds was used to stop itch and sting of ticks and other insects. It was broken and the juice rubbed on, after the tick was removed.
The American Indians consumed the fiddle hooks for removing intestinal worms and crushed them to relieve the pain from burns and scalds.