Xanthorrhoea are commonly known as the Grass Tree, yet this rarified species of plant is anything but common. They survive in wet and dry forests, subsisting only on this diverse continent of Australia. Their ornamental form is graceful and dignified, when you bare witness to these gracious plant creatures you know you are amongst ancient royalty.
I am fortunate to be living near a "Grass Tree Grove"... I remember the first time I discovered this area on one of my walks... the presence of the Xanthorrhoea literally brought me to a halt in my tracks... like I'd hit a silent brick wall... if these tree figures were to speak, it would be 'Hark who goes there?'... a quiet yet stern request... one must be granted permission to walk within their royal domain. I slowed down and respected their encompassing silence and reserved greatness. I was encountering a world of sacred immanence. I conceived in that moment that these plant kingdom beings were to be honoured for their regalness... these stately figures are imbued with both strength and gentleness... its flowering stem is like a 'kingly' spear, and beneath its form lies a cascading 'crown' of leafy greenery.
Their life span is anywhere between anywhere between 200 - 900 years old. They are slow growing, with an unhurried maturation signifying there is no sense of force associated with these trees. Their moderate natures teach us that levels of productivity are not associated with being 'fast paced' like our western view. This slow maturing, yet highly productive plant yields edible starch and drinkable nectar. Their soft shoots can be chewed on, which serves to suppress hunger and thirst during times of survival. It offers a home for grubs that are eaten as a protein source, other useful products are also obtained for hunting purposes and building materials.
They are living sculptures that beautify the landscape... 'Grace under pressure' is their signatory definition. They hold a peaceful power that is immune to the harsh elements of the environment. Regeneration is embedded in the DNA of these elegant structures. They have refined the art of survival and are resistant to drought, flood, fire and frost.
They have both a feminine and masculine quality about them. They embody the potent dynamic of these opposing yet complimentary forces. Xanthorrhoea obtains water through the serene symbiosis of mycorrhiza (fungi) suffused through its root system, and its propagation potential is often stimulated by fire. Water and fire are the prime elements of creation... The artistry of creative endeavours is balancing the fire of driven passion (masculine element) within the watery serenity (feminine element) of melding love into form. The hermetic principal of alchemy claims that the essence of existence manifests through merging the paradoxical properties of fire and water. Xanthorrheoa has sustained its regenesis qualities through this ancient concept.
The male looking aspect of the Grasstree is a tall wooden like shaft that extends from the center of the plant. The stem itself may take up to 20 years to emerge... It was originally used for spears and firesticks. It produces creamy yellow flowers. They bloom in star like clusters that spiral around the stem. Xanthorrhoea means 'yellow flow' which is named after the flower nectar. The Indigenous people would soak the flowers in water to make a sweet fermented drink.
The feminine looking part of the plant is a skirt of greenery, which is a fire
protective leafage that encircles the spear-like stem. It has been described that after a bushfire the remains of the grasstree beneath the burnt foliage reveals a child like figure... I imagine this as the mythos of a mystical child born of the ashes. The archetype myth of the mystical/magical child represents the natural source of our inherent creative abilities.
This often untapped energy is essential in times of change and upheaval.
When we are burnt to the ground, we relinquish our fixed reality, with the fragility of a child we enter a mutable world of the unknown. Within that vulnerable state a void can be filled through the reclamation of our child-like imagination, and we can once again rebuild our dreams. The nature of the internal/eternal child is the key to our rebirth. This tree holds the embodiment of this myth.
Its 66 million year evolutionary journey holds the ancient templates of reproductive power. When the masculine and feminine principles ignite through 'baptism by fire' the infinite combined potency of creational desires is manifested into this finite existence... a new world can be reborn, that serves to strengthen and harmonize the polarities of co-creation. We can not create in separation, we must have the structural nature of the masculine and the creative flow of the feminine to bring form to life.
Resin is collected from the grasstree trunk... It is deep magenta red and its hardened globules are ruby like.. I remember the first time I was shown these exquisite plant jewels I was mesmerized as they glistened in the sun. They held both beauty and practicality. These resin rubies are used for glues, adhesives and water-proofing varnishes. They were also used by the European colonists as incense for their churches.
The hermaphrodite flowers of the Xanthorrhoea entwine themselves in a snake like pattern up the caudex (stem). The imagery of this is profound. It reminds me of the caduceus staff of Hermes, which symbolizes the healing power of alchemy and the unity of opposites.
The word hermaphrodite comes from the Hermaphroditis who was the son of the god 'Hermes' and the goddess 'Aphrodite'. Hermes was worshipped as the phallic god of fertility, male potency and alchemy. He was the inventor of tools and implements. It was Hermes who first invented fire and fire sticks. Aphrodite was the goddess of fertility, sexual love, beauty and water. She was worshipped as a warrior goddess and married Hephaestus (the god of fire).
The grasstree represents the alchemical attunement of our female and male factors. The crucible of our existence is not forced evolution, it is a life affirming process through the catabolic force of nature. This antagonistic cycle can elevate creative potential through the cultivation of masculine and feminine polarities.
The warring male/female dynamic are irreverent counterparts that can dismantle our creational power. I am not speaking to gender issues here, misogynism, or reverse sexism. I am giving voice to the 'battle of the sexes' that lies within. Creation is reliant on the balance of these structures within our internal and external environment. The grass tree shows us that our highest evolutionary capability can be attained through the synergy of female/male mutualism. Through patience and gentle respect the alignment of this 'formidable coupling' can produce something that is unique and valuable. Fast growth can be encoded with irreparable destruction. The Xanthorrhoea teaches us that slow growth produces stability, resilience and fortitude to stand against the forces of natural or unnatural disasters.