The Boab and the Australian Aborigines

Dry Season Boabs

This iconic Kimberley tree, with stark leafless branches during the ‘dry’ and festooned with brilliant green during the ‘wet’, is unique to this magnificent part of Australia.  Boab trees attract attention because of their striking and unusual shapes.  They are very individual and have a spiritual presence about them.  It is no surprise that the Boab is regarded as a special tree.

Regardless of how, or even when, the Boab reached the Kimberley Region, it is held in high regard by the Aborigines of the Kimberley Region.  They know the tree as larrkardiy and regard it has having a strong spiritual presence.  

It features in rock art and also dreamtime stories, where it was regarded as being too proud and arrogant and was punished by being re-planted upside-down with its roots in the air.  Interestingly, the African Baobab is also known as the “upside-down tree”.  This nick-name stems from an Arabic legend which claims that a devil uprooted a tree and planted it upside down.



Wet Season Boab

The Aboriginal people of the Kimberley have utilised the Boab in many ways:

  • It is a source of life-saving water in the dry times as the central wood pulp is spongy and full of moisture;  
  • The fibrous inner bark can be used for rope, baskets and nets;
  • A red dye is made from the outer layer of tree roots;
  • The leaves and sapling tap roots are edible and very nutritious; 
  • The seeds can be eaten raw or roasted;
  • Pulp from the seed-pod is high in vitamin C and may be mixed with water to make a citrus-tasting drink;
  • The empty seed-pods can be used for storage, and also carved for cereminial purposes.

West Kimberley Boabs at sunset

The Boab is a valuable source of medicinal ingredients.  The high vitamin C and calcium content of young leaves and especially the seed-pod pith, makes it a valued commodity.  The bark is also used to treat fever, as it contains properties similar to quinine.

These ancient trees are regarded as cherished individuals with unique personalities – larrkardiy should always be treated with respect. 
To learn more about the Geographical Distribution of the Boab, please click here