Plants are an important part of Tjukurpa, and there are ceremonies for each of the major plant foods. Many plants are associated with ancestral beings. Collection of plant foods remains a culturally important activity, reinforcing traditional links with country and Tjukurpa.
Wanari (mulga - Acacia aneura)
Probably Australia's most common tree. It covers huge semi-arid and arid areas. What look like leaves are actually flattened leaf-stems (called phyllodes). Fire usually kills mulga so it has developed a survival strategy dependant on fire. The seeds need heat to crack and germinate, which is why the trees occurring in each stand are generally the same age.
Each part of the tree has an important traditional use. The heavy, hard wood is the main source of firewood. From the bigger branches and trunks miru (spearthrower), mukulpa (barbs), wata (spearhead), kali (boomerang) and wana (digging stick) are made. Both wiltja (shelter) and yuu (windbreak) are constructed from the leafy branches. The tree is also a valuable source of food, providing seeds, shelter for malu (red plains kangaroo), nyii-nyii (zebra finch) nests, tarulka (mulga apples) and insect galls, kurku (clear sweet lumps) and ngantja (mistletoe fruit).
Kurkara (desert oak - Allocasuarina decaisneana)
Slow growing and grow in deep sand in large numbers. Juveniles look like Christmas trees and mature to an adult form spreading massive limbs when the roots meet the water table. It is the only member of its family in Central Australia and its cones are the biggest in its family. Fire burns its foliage but usually does not kill the tree.
Kanturangu (desert poplar - Codonocarpus cotinifolius)
Fast growing short-lived tree, belonging to the same Australian family as the sandhill corkwood. It sometimes sets so much seed that its crown bends over with the weight. It often lines roadsides but can also grow in sand, on mulga flats and even on rocky hillsides. Anangu collect its leaves as a cooling cover for babies in hot weather. They also collect maku (witchetty grubs) from the roots.
Muur-muurpa (desert bloodwood (Corymbia terminalis))
One of the parks most prominent eucalypts in the park. This tall tree has a distinctive thick, rough bark that helps protect it from fire. The English name comes from the dark red sap that accumulates on wounds on the trunk. In harsh times, the tree can drop branches reducing the energy needed to survive. The wood from the trunk of muur-muurpa is strong and good for making piti (bowls). Anangu cut the trunk a special way so the tree does not die. Muur-muurpa is good bush medicine. We peel the red sap off the tree, grind it and mix it with kapi (water). This ointment is good for cuts and sores.
Itara (river red gum - Eucalyptus camaldulensis)
Another prominent eucalypt found in the park. Anangu collect a white flaky crust from river red gum leaves, roll it into balls and eat it like a lolly.
Altarpa (blue mallee - Eucalyptus gamophylla)
This eucalypt is very common throughout the park.
Grevilleas and hakeas (corkwood trees) flower in the spring and winter. They have big bottlebrush heads. Anangu collect nectar from the flowers, they do not pick them for nectar. They suck it directly from the flowers or soak them in water for a sweet drink.
Kaliny-kalinypa (honey grevillea - Grevillea eriostachya)
This shrubs flowers are bright yellow and green.
Ilykuwara (witchetty bush - Acacia kempeana)
This shrub looks like a shrubby mulga with broad round-ended leaves. Anangu women use their digging stick to dig up the roots to extract maku (witchetty grub), larvae of a large moth that feeds in the roots.
Mintjingka (native fuchsia - Eremophila latrobei)
After rain it is easy to see when it is covered with bright red bell flowers. Anangu collect these and suck the sweet nectar.
Tjulpun-tjulpunpa - flowers (and fruits)
Anangu call all the pretty ground flowers tjulpun-tjulpunpa. Daisies and other ground flowers bloom after rain and during the winter. Others such as the wattles bloom as spring approaches. Anangu collect wattle seed, crush and mix it with water to make an edible paste which they eat raw. To make damper, the seeds are parched with hot sand so their skins can be removed before they are ground for flour.
Purar-purarpa (white foxtail - Ptilotis obovatus)
This plant belongs to a group of hair flowers we call pussytails.
Alputati (showy foxtail - Ptilotis exaltatus)
Also part of the pussytail group, has a spectacular display of pink flowers.
Pukara (desert heath-myrtle - Thryptomene maisonneuvei)
In early June you might see this plant flowering near the Uluru sunset viewing area and the Resort. It is a small shrub with scale leaves and tiny pink and white flowers.
Paltu-paltupa (parrot-pea - Crotalaria cunninghamii)
Found on the sandhill crests in midwinter, it has very obvious big green flowers with dark stripes. Anangu mash the leaves and use them as a poultice on snake bite
There are over 50 species of native grass in the park. All have adapted to the boom or bust conditions of the red centre. Grasses tolerate this harsh environment by needing little water, having resistance to frost and strategies to cope with fire. When it rains grasses respond with an abundance of seed. Anangu women collect grass seed such as wangunu (naked
woollybutt grass) to make nyuma (flat bread). We run our hands along the seed heads and scoop them into a piti (large bowl). We clean the seed, grind it and mix it with kapi (water). We sometimes add tjala (honey ant) to make it sweet for children then cook it like damper in the coals.
Tjanpi (hard spinifex - Triodia basedowii, soft spinifex - Triodia pungens)
These prickly hummocks have enormous root systems that prevent desert sands shifting. The hummock roots spread underground beyond the prickly clump and deeply into the soil, forming an immense cone. Anangu know that tjanpi likes to burn fast. You have to watch it. You have to know your country, know how to manage it. Old people tell the story, the Tjukurpa for tjanpi. They teach us that the old dry centre of tjanpi is what you burn.
Anangu gather the resin of soft spinifexes to make kiti (gum). Anangu thresh the spinifex until the resin particles fall free, then heat them until they fuse together to form a moldable black tar. This kiti is used for hunting and working implements, and to mend breaks in stone and wooden implements.
Wangunu (naked woolybutt - Eragrostis eriopoda)
An important food source for Anangu.
Kunakanti (armgrass millet - Paractaenum [Plagiosetum] refractum)
The seeds are also used for food.
Kaltu - kaltu (native millet - Panicum decompositum)
Another food source for Anangu.