Saturday, 28 September 2019

Bristlebirds, Turmeric and Water Gums

What's On The Show Today
Marianne is talking with ornitholgist Dr Holly Parsons about an indigenous ground dwelling bird in Wildlife in Focus, growing turmeric , a root veg that is too easy, in Vegetable Heroes, Tristaniopsis laurina or water gum is a native tree with many things to love in Plant of the Week plus what to do about indoor plant pests in Design Elements.


Rufous BristleBird
Did you know that Australia has ground dwelling birds other than emus, brush turkeys, and Cassowary?
Out of all those birds I just mentioned, gardeners might prefer the Rufous Bristlebird digging around in their garden.
Rufous Birstlebird
Do you know why it's called a bristlebird?
Let’s find out.

The Rufous Bristlebird (Dasyorni Broadbenti) is only found in Australia and mainly along coastal areas in south-western Victoria.
Bristlebirds are generally shy birds that skulk in dense vegetation during the day. They prefer to run away to avoid danger, but are capable of flying short distances. Bit like the brush turkey.
Usually they hang around in pairs 
The common name of the family is derived from the presence of prominent rictal bristles - three stiff, hair-like feathers curving downwards on either side of the gape.
As with fantails and flycatchers, their bristles assist in catching insects.
Bristlebirds have previously been seen in south-western Western Australia and south-eastern South Australia, but unfortunately frequent burning has led to their extinction in W.A.
Have you seen a Rufous Bristlebird?
If you have any questions for me or for Holly, why not write in to or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Turmeric or Curcuma longa.
Turmeric is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. And it’s surprisingly easy to grow.

It‘s native to southwest India and has been grown in cultivation since 500 BCE where it’s an important part of AY-YURR-VEDDIC (Ayurvedic )medicine?
Ayurveda translates to “science of life.”
In India, inhaling fumes from burning turmeric is supposed to alleviate congestion, also turmeric juice was used to help with healing of wounds and bruises, and turmeric paste was applied to all sorts of skin conditions – from smallpox and chicken pox to blemishes and shingles.
  • Did you know that in Hindu religion there’s a wedding day tradition in which a string, dyed yellow with turmeric paste, is tied around the bride’s neck by her groom?
  • This necklace, indicates that the woman is married and capable of running a household.
  • You may have seen Buddhist monks with their saffron or yellowy coloured robes. This is where the natural colouring properties of Turmeric comes in.
  • Not only is it used to colour Buddhist robes, but has been used to dye clothing and thread for centuries.

Turmeric plant
What does it look like?
Turmeric grows to about 1 metre in height, with alternating lime green leaves about a metre long; in other words quite big as you’d expect in a rainforest setting.
The flowers are pure white and extend upwards on floral spikes, up to 20cm long. Suitable for picking too.
The rhizomes have tough brown skin and deep orange flesh inners.
To get hold of some Turmeric rhizomes you need to go to an organic fruit and veg market where you can buy fresh turmeric roots throughout summer, and you may be able to use those to sprout a plant.
Otherwise, you’ll have to find a local nursery or online store that carries them.
Note: Sometimes it’s sold as hidden Ginger online but we aware that there are different kinds of hidden ginger, but only the rhizomes of Curcuma longa, Curcuma zedoaria and Curcuma aromatica should be grown as spices.
How To Sprout Turmeric Tubers
Turmeric tubers
  • To get your rhizome to sprout just place it in a paper bag in a warmish spot in the kitchen, say by a window and you should see sprouts in a few days. Once you have a fresh rhizome or root, all you need to do is plant it. 
  • A large root will have several fingers to it.You can cut these apart and start more than one plant if you like.
  • Another way to get it to sprout is to just bury the rhizome 5 cm deep into loose potting mix.
  • If there are any knobs or buds on the root, turn it so they are facing upwards.
Now Keep It Growing
Keep it damp but not sopping wet or the root may rot.
In a month or so, you should see sprouts come up.
If you are going to grow turmeric outside, you can transplant it out in late autumn.
For indoor plants, you can do this anytime.
Turmeric is a rhizome so like Jerusalem Artichokes, and Ginger, you plant them in the soil when the rhizomes are dormant
Most books will tell you to plant your rhizome in Spring, but the first lot that I bought withered and shrivelled and it wasn’t until late December that I purchased another lot.
This time the rhizomes were fresher looking and sprouted in a couple of days using the paper bag method.
Sprouted turmeric does OK in  a pot

These were then potted up and placed in a shady spot where all the young plants get put in my garden.
The plant had reached about 30 cm in height by the end of January.
Why grow Turmeric?
Even if you don’t ever make your own curry paste or even cook with Turmeric, the Turmeric plant is very lush and tropical looking.
The whole plant is edible; the roots are boiled, dried and ground up to produce turmeric powder, the leaves make a wrap for steamed fish, and even the flowers can be eaten as a vegetable, like lettuce.
For those that use Turmeric in cooking, did you know that if you make your own Turmeric powder from the rhizomes, it won’t be as bright as the processed store bought version?
Because the root can harbour mould and foodborne pathogens, turmeric is typically irradiated to kill pathogenic bacteria.
Irradiation also creates a brighter powder, but if you don’t want irradiated Turmeric, either buy organic powder or grow your own.
Where to grow it.
Turmeric plant
Unless you live in a tropical, sub-tropical or temperate zone  in Australia, the majority of people who are going to grow turmeric will have to do it indoors, and it does grow fine in pots.
In temperate regions your Turmeric will die down over winter and return the following year, and  in cold temperate zones unless your ground freezes over it may just pop up again in Spring.
Choose a pot that’s at least 30cm across and the same in depth to give your plants room to grow.
Water your potted turmeric regularly to keep the soil damp, and weekly feedings with mild or diluted fertilizer won’t go astray either.
If you’re growing it in the ground, only put it in full sun if the ground is constantly wet, otherwise shade in the middle of the day is best.
Turmeric will cope with drought and even boggy soils, probably because where it naturally grows, the average rainfall is between 1000 and 2000mm a year
If the plant is stressed by drought or too much sun, the leaves will hang
When to dig it up?
  • You’ll have to wait at least 8 -10 months before you can dig it up.
  • When the leaves turn yellow and start to dry out that’s when your turmeric is ready to dig up.
  • You’ll have to dig up the whole plant and cut the rhizome away from the stem.You might be lucky and manage to dig up only a small part because storing it in the ground will keep it fresh the longest.If you’re growing it in a pot, it’s pretty simple to turn the rhizome out, take what you want, and then put it all back.
So how else can you use Turmeric?
To store your Turmeric just keep the unpeeled roots in an air-tight container in a cool dark place and the rhizomes should last for up to 6 months.
To use fresh Turmeric in cooking, just slice them thinly or mince instead of using powder.
If you are used to cooking with dry and ground turmeric from the store, take care when using fresh. It’s much stronger in taste and you will only need a small amount to really add its peppery zest to a meal.
Turmeric Flower is edible

You don’t have to make the powder but instead use it as you would fresh ginger.
How about a fruit and veg Turmeric smoothie, or Turmeric pickle?
For sore throats, add 1 teaspoon of Turmeric to your favourite milk, and heat. Add some honey to sweeten.
Drink this before retiring for bed.
It's also an excellent source of fibre, vitamin B6, potassium, and healthy amounts of vitamin C and magnesium.
But you don’t need to eat that much.
Even a small dose has health benefits.


Tristaniopsis laurina: Water Gum
This week we have a native plant that has Tristaniopsis laurina or Water gum is like the native version of Crepe myrtles, with interesting bark, leaves and flowers.
It’s in the Myrtaceae family but it’s not a gum tree.
Water gum in flower: I'ts not a gum tree.
Let’s find out what’s good about this one.
I'm speaking with Adrian O’Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.

But are the flowers perfumed? Adrian thought not but apparently they do have a perfume.
There’s an updated version called Tristaniopsis laurina ‘Luscious.”that grows up to 8m in height.
Leaves are dark green, shiny and large with a dense canopy.
New growth starts out a distinctive copper colour and further interest appears over time with the branches developing deep purple coloured bark which peels back to reveal a smooth, cream trunk.
Flowers are yellow and sweetly perfumed, appearing in clusters through summer.

If you have any questions for me or for Adrian or would like some seeds of this tree, please write in to


Indoor Plant Pests Under Control
Over the past few weeks, we’ve talked about what plants you can grow indoors wherever you live in Australia.

Quite a few in fact can cope with all weather conditions for the far north of Australia to Tasmania.
Despite all your loving attention though, some plants can be susceptible to pest attack, or just like plain unhealthy, making you think you did something wrong.
Not necessarily true, so let’s find out about looking after indoor plants
That was Julia Levitt Director of
PLAY: Indoor plants-pests_2nd August 2017
Even the best plant owner will come across pests.
The trick is to keep an eye on your plants and act quickly as soon as you see something wrong with your indoor plant.
Why are we having plants indoors again?
Apart from plants reducing carbon dioxide levels in your home, did you know that people with plants in their homes have less stress, and plants have been known to contribute to lower blood pressure?
If you have any questions about indoor plant pests why not email us

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