Kapok Tree: Cochlospermum fraseri.
When we arrived in the Kimberley the kapok trees were in flower. Their brilliant yellow blossoms always look so cheerful. There is a lot of yellow in the bush land—yellow wattle and yellow pea-shaped wildflowers—which contrasts beautifully with the red and blue-violet ranges, and the red rocks and soil.
Both the Kapok flower (which is high in vitamin C) and the taproot (which is roasted) are used as traditional bush tucker (bush food). The roots are also pounded and used in traditional bush medicine to treat sores.
The Kapok is one of the few Australian native deciduous trees. Its leaves fall in winter, before the flowers fully open. At that stage they are pollinated, and the large, globular, green, papery fruit develop, which eventually turn brown and split along the seams to release their small black seeds.
What remains in the split seedpod is a dense mat of fine silky hairs, which is the material that is harvested for use in kapok pillows. I knew these pillows from my childhood. Kapok pillows are not seen in stores in Australia these days, as apparently the fibre is highly flammable and perhaps more suited for use as a fire starter.
Jutburra (formerly Gregory) National Park
This is a place I love. In am thrilled to know that in May 2010 the park was returned to its traditional Indigenous owners and renamed Jutburra National Park.
Travelling north and then slightly east from Victoria River Roadhouse, you will find wonderful, private bush land camp spots in the Jutburra National Park. This is the Northern Territory's second largest national park, a spectacular 13,000 square kilometre wilderness area starting 200 km west of Katherine.
An excerpt from the book, Gold, Australian Rural-lit and historical fiction author and artist