White Dragon Tree (Sesbania Formosa)

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2011 at 09:01


White Dragon Tree (Sesbania Formosa)

(Also known as the Swamp Corkwood)

A native of northern Australia, it is found in the Pilbara and Kimberley areas and eastward into Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. It also grows in a small area on the western side of the Cape York peninsular, Queensland. This species occurs in the hot arid, hot semi-arid, hot sub-humid and hot humid zones. It dislikes frost. Growing along river banks, in depressions or in areas where a high groundwater table exists. It grows on alluvial plains where the soil varies from deep sands to heavy, black, alkaline clays. It will tolerate saline or waterlogged conditions.

A very fast growing tree to 12 metres tall with few upright branches. The bark is pale grey, furrowed and corky, the young branches being finely hairy. Leaves are pinnate to 40 cm long with up to 20 leaflet pairs. The pea-shaped white or yellowish-white flowers are 7 to 12 cm long in clusters of 2 to 7 flowers. Flowering is in May-June .

The leaves and flowers are edible and can be eaten raw or cooked; the leaves are steamed, boiled or sauteed in Indonesia and India. Australian Aboriginals used an infusion from the inner bark for treating sores and general illness. The wood is white, soft, light and non-durable and is little used. The leaves have good potential as stock fodder. It has the potential to become a weed under certain conditions.

These photographs were taken at Dragon Tree Soak and Elizabeth Soak within the Dragon Tree Soak Nature Reserve in the remote Great Sandy Desert.
Dragon Tree Soak Nature Reserve covers an area of around 18,000 hectares and is located in the northwest of Western Australia. It is an extremely remote area where no access roads currently exist. Access is gained only by arduous cross country travel across the dune fields and soak pans of the Great Sandy Desert. At its closest point, the reserve is 210km east of the Great Northern Highway.

Dragon Tree Soak is a swamp believed to be a relic of the riverine vegetation found along the Mandora Palaeoriver during its partial rejuvenation by the wetter climates of the early to mid Holocene Epoch (It is generally accepted that the Holocene started approximately 12,000 years BP (before present day. The period follows the Baltic-Scandinavian Ice Age). The swamp supports beds of bullrush (Typha domingensis) and is surrounded by a low woodland of White Dragon Trees (Sesbania formosa); these and other plants are markedly confined to the Soak. It is used by birds from the surrounding hummock grasslands but also has species generally associated with scrub or tree-lined watercourses elsewhere. The soak includes a freshwater spring, a permanent freshwater marsh and peatland. It has an area of 5 ha (main water area: 1 ha). It forms an oasis supporting plants and animals that are absent or scarce elsewhere in the desert.

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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