Ethnobotany & Landscape Architecture

Balyang is the Wadawurrung word for bulrush that once grew along the Barwon River at Balyang Sanctuary.



The bulrush once grew in the brackish water of the Barwon River at Balyang Sanctuary until the time of colonisation when Capt. Foster Fyans and 50 convicts installed the breakwater in 1837 to prevent the salty tidal flows reaching the base of Buckley Falls. This enabled the water to become freshwater upstream from Breakwater - thus enabling the expansion of the Geelong township. 

Did you know?

The bulrush was an important resource for Indigenous People as it provided both raw materials and aliment. 

· This ubiquitous lacustrine plant provided staple root food. The outer skin of the roots were peeled and the inner core was tenderised to loosen the fibrous strings. After cooking it in the fireside ashes, the core, which was rich in granular starch and as palatable as potatoes, was eaten and although bland in flavour was a valuable food source for growing children.

· The young, underground shoots were on the menu in Spring and eaten as raw salad stuff or steamed like asparagus.

· The strap like leaves were split into narrow strips and parched and used for basketry often mixed with human hair to provide extra durability. The bulrush threads were often alternated with threads of pallid rush to create a patterned surface.

· Cordage spun from the bulrush was used to make string for fishing lines and fishing nets and nets to trap birds. Some of these nets were as long as 180m and used for trapping rising water birds.

· Finer cordage was used for tying up parcels of food or other products such as ochre to carry for trading. 

· The spadix fluff from a bulrush spike was used to smother bleeding in a deep wound.

As with most plants, the bulrush was an indispensible plant that had multiple functions instead of the often single use we have of plants in modern society.