Ajuntament de Barcelona

Xanthorrhoea glauca 'Bedford'

Mossèn Costa i Llobera Garden

    Catalan name: 
    Arbre gespa
    Spanish name: 
    Árbol hierba
    English name: 
    Blackboy
    Botanical synonyms: 
    Xanthorrhoea australis
    Species characteristics
    Family: 
    Xanthorrhoeaceae
    Origin: 
    New South Wales and Queensland (Australia)
    Habitat: 
    Well-drained soils in rocky hills of arid and warm coastal areas
    Characteristics: 

    Perennial shrub up to 5 m tall, with thick dark fibrous trunk, sometimes ramified and finished with a dense crest of more or less spherical leaves.

    The pointed leaves, 50 cm-1 m long (and only 0.5 cm wide) are greyish-green and herb-looking.

    The very small white or cream flower appear into cylindric scapes (stems whitout leaves that have the flowers on the tip), up to 3 m long and around 4.5 cm in diameter.

    The fruits are capsules with several black and hard seeds.

    Flowering time: 
    Spring
    Fruiting time: 
    Summer
    Uses and properties: 

    Blackboys have many practical properties that have been widely used by Indigenous Australians, from fodd to arts to hunting. The base of its leaves and the raw shoots were eaten as food and from the nectar of its flowers a sweet drink was obtained. The rods in flower were used as torches and to make spears for fishing, handles and other objects such as didges. The leaves were used as knives and its resin, highly appreciated as glue, was also used as varnish.

    The flower was also used as a compass since the ones pointing North open up before the rest.

    History and curiosities: 

    The scientific name, Xanthorrhoea glauca, consists of the genus name Xanthorrhoea, coming from the Greek words ξάνθος, “yellow”, and ῥέω, “to flow”, in allusion to the resin obtained from it, and the Latin term glauca, “greyish green”, in reference to the leaves colouring.

    The popular name black boy or blackboy alludes to the similiarity of this plant to an Australian aboriginal boy who was brandishing a spear. However, since this term is regarded as an offensive or racist one, it is being abandoned in favour of grasstree.