Bush Ballerinas

Western Queensland Road Trip #3 Gubberamunda State Forest

The wide expanse of Grafton Terrace Road is deceptive. While the track’s surface looks firm enough, the red sandy soil can be slippery, at times grabbing the tyres of our car and forcing them in a new direction, as if they have a life of their own. Luckily we’re in no hurry, driving at a speed which still allows for control over the steering wheel.

We’re headed north east of Roma to Gubberamunda State Forest, looking for ballerinas in the bush.

For a long time we peer out of the car windows, seeing none and wondering if we’ve gone too far and missed them altogether. Then suddenly we come across not just one or two, but dozens on the side of the road.

Xanthorrhoea johnsonii, commonly known as Johnsons Grass Tree or Queensland Grass Tree, is native to Australia and grows all over western Queensland. In this part of the state forest a stand of grass trees numbering in the hundreds flourishes.

Growing up to 5 metres tall and living for as long as 600 years, grass trees are instantly recognisable by their rough trunks, often blackened by bushfires, and the tuft of long grass-like leaves springing from the top. Old dried foliage bends downwards creating a “skirt” around the trunk.

With a light breeze lifting the leaves, the trees seem like dancers ready to twirl and flick their ballet tutus.

The playful addition of sunglasses almost brings Cousin It to life.

Although the soil quality is poor and there’s been no rain for months, the bush is well and truly alive. Purple nightshade flowers stand out brightly against the red surrounds while circular ant hills are like tiny sculptures, each one precisely and perfectly constructed.

purple nightshade

Our attention returns the grass trees for, although we’ve seen them elsewhere in Queensland, the sheer number here is spectacular. It’s as if a whole company of dancers is about to take to the stage.

59 thoughts on “Bush Ballerinas

  1. A beautiful selection of flora, and an apt name for grass trees. I’ve never heard them referred to as Ballerinas before. We were driving a similar dirt road yesterday with sand that could easily defy the drivers intentions. It was very narrow so a bit hairy when passing oncoming traffic – especially gung-hoes in a hire 4×4 who thought speed was the way go.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Those ballerinas are so strange but look amazing, never seen anything like it before. Not sure about the ants though, need to keep away from your Aussie ones as they can be a little unfriendly!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. They do look like a ballet chorus in such a grouping – I have only seen them here in one garden near home and only a couple of the species and there are a few in the Eden Project Mediterranean biome: they are very interesting trees. I love the various patterns you found with your lens too. The Australian outback is what I love about your country, unique. The cities, nice as they are, are like any other modern metropolis around the world.

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  4. Okay, this is really interesting. I wish I had a better word for it, but this is so unusual and I feel like I went to class and was learning about interesting aspects of Australia. When I saw the title, I couldn’t figure it out, but these trees are truly amazing. I will also never complain about the ant hills in my yard ever again. πŸ™‚

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  5. As you were describing driving in the sand I couldn’t help but think the strategy is very similar to us driving in the snow! I adored the visit to the grass trees and giggled at the sunglasses addition. I know I would have been having a chat with all of them. Absolutely fascinating. I’ve definitely learned something new about Australia!

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  6. I had NO idea what a bush ballerina might be, and so I was eager to continue reading and hope that you were indeed going to catch a sighting. What a magnificent and unusual tree. Love the delicacy and amazed by the height and appearance! It is a “tree” right? Thanks for sharing these beauties.


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  7. Pingback: Top o’ the Morning #1 | The Eternal Traveller

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