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Microseris lanceolata (synonym for Australian plants: M. scapigera) is a perennial herb also known as murnong and yam daisy.
It is found in many forms in southern and eastern Australia (Victoria, NSW, ACT, SA, WA and on the island of Tasmania). The Tasmanian form being markedly smaller than the mainland Australian form. A related species occurs in New Zealand, Microseris scapigera, recognised now as the correct name for plants there. In Australia that name was used earlier but is now relegated to only a synonym for Australian plants.
A variable species, it has the form of a tufted rosette of toothed lanceolate leaves.
The flower stalk is notable for its curious behaviour: pendulous before flowering, it becomes erect for flowering, lifting the flower to the attention of pollinators, then becomes pendulous again until the seed head ripens, at which time it becomes erect again, exposing the seed head to the best possible wind exposure. The 'flower' is a yellow head of florets, reminiscent of a dandelion. The seed heads ripen to a cluster of fluffy, tan achenes, each having a crown of fine extensions called a pappus. Seed dispersal is by wind.
Cultivation and uses
The species has edible tuberous roots and was once an important source of food for peoples of Australia. The introduction of cattle, sheep and goats by immigrating early–colonialist Europeans led to the near extinction of Murnong, with calamitous results for first Australians’ communities who depended upon Murnong for a large part of their food. Murnong was prepared by roasting or pit baking; the taste is described as "sweet with a flavour of coconut".
- Cribb, A.B. & J.W. (1974), Wild Food in Australia, pgs 150-15
- Gott, Beth (1982). "Ecology of Root Use by the Aborigines of Southern Australia". Archaeology in Oceania 17 (1): 59–67. doi:10.2307/40386580.
- Frankel, D. (June 1982). "An account of Aboriginal use of the yam daisy". The Artefact 7 (1–2): 43–5.
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- Gott, Beth (1987). "Murnong — a Victorian staple food: some nutritional implications.". In Graeme K. Ward (ed). Archaeology at ANZAAS. The 54th Congress of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science, May 1984, Section 25A: Archaeology. Canberra: Canberra Archaeological Society. pp. 111–114. ISBN 978-0-9588625-0-9.
- Incoll, L. D.; Bonnett, G. D.; Gott, Beth (1989). "Fructans in the underground storage organs of some Australian plants used for food by Aborigines". Journal of Plant Physiology 134 (2): 196–202. doi:10.1016/s0176-1617(89)80055-0. (Congress: International symposium on fructan. 1 1988)
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- Zola, Nelly; Gott, Beth (1992). Koorie plants, Koorie people : traditional Aboriginal food, fibre and healing plants of Victoria. Melbourne: Koorie Heritage Trust. ISBN 1-875606-10-6.
- Gott, Beth (1993). "Use of Victorian plants by Koories". In Foreman, Don B.; Walsh, Neville G. Flora of Victoria 1. Melbourne: Inkata Press. pp. 195–211. ISBN 0-909605-76-9.
- Lunt, Ian D. (1996). "A transient soil seed bank for the Yam-daisy Microseris scapigera" (PDF). Victorian Naturalist 113: 16–19.
- Gott, Beth (2008). "Indigenous use of plants in south-eastern Australia" (PDF). Telopea 2 (215): 226.
- Cahir, Fred (2012). "Murnong: Much more than a food". Artefact: the Journal of the Archaeological and Anthropological Society of Victoria, The. 35: 29–39.