The biggest stand of Indigenous water trees, boorna gnamma, in the Southern Hemisphere was discovered recently.
The find was a collaboration of scientists, a Merningar and Barduk Elder, and a Denmark resident.
Boorna gnammas are marri trees which have been altered over generations for water storage.
Rainfall is directed along funnels in branches into a hollowed-out tree base.
Local researcher and writer Reneé Pettitt-Schipp began to notice the unusual marris after hearing renowned conservation biologist Professor Steve Hopper speaking with Elder Lynette Knapp about boorna gnammas on ABC Radio.
Since then, Reneé, Lynette and Steve have collaborated to try and locate and protect these culturally significant trees.
Steve’s involvement has led to University if WA Masters student Anna Ischenko studying and geomapping the trees with the support of Lynette and Steve, as well as cross-cultural researcher, Dr Alison Lullfi tz.
“It is so wonderful to have Lynette out here seeing the trees and sharing her knowledge about them,” Reneé said.
“It is also so important to have Anna locating and studying the boorna gnamma through her research work.” Renee said Shire officials had also seen some of the boorna gnamma which was ‘really heartening’.
She hoped to gain Shire support in coming months to support a Significant Tree Register to protect the trees from being damaged through incidents such as felling and fire.
The trees occurred on Shire land, private property, unallocated Crown land and possibly around a Water Corporation site.
“We need a meaningful way of communicating to all stakeholders the presence of these unique culturally significant trees,” Renee said.
Standing by one of the boorna gnamma, that still holds water for most of the year, Lynette said: “It is amazing to see these trees so close to houses, that they have survived all this time.
See more photos from the event in the issue.
This article appeared in the Denmark Bulletin, 20 April 2023.