Broome in the Barrgana
For ten days I’m in Broome, in north-western Western Australia, enjoying the season of Barrgana. Both the Bardi and Yawuru people share this ‘cold’ season running from mid-May to July (Bardi) or June to August (Yawuru).
It’s the equivalent of our slighter colder season around Sydney called ‘winter’ but Barrgana begins when the pandanus nuts turning red, the joongoon fruits (Mimusops elengi) are ready for picking and the jiggal tree (Lysiphyllum cunninghamii) flowers.
A whole lot of animals do interesting things too and apparently the dugongs are fat and ready to eat.
Both the Bardi and the Yawaru have six seasons, like the Bininj/Mungguy in Kakadu and the Jawoyn at Katherine. Further east, the Yanyuwa in the Gulf of Carpentaria have five seasons and just 180 km west of the Katherine the Wardaman recognise only four seasons.
Barrgana is also part of what we Europeans call ‘the dry’. While usually an apt description, this week it is all wrong. It has rained since we descended through three layers of grey clouds into Broome yesterday. The Gibb River Road is closed. The road from Derby to Fitzroy Crossing is closed. There is mud everywhere. And this is The Dry.
The mean maximum temperature in July is 28 degrees Celsius, with nightly minima down to 15 degrees. It doesn’t rain and humidity is low… Well, at the moment it’s hitting about 20 degrees in the middle of the days and there is plenty of rain. If the sun comes out, I’m sure it will be humid.
Still there are lots of things in flower, in the rain. We get to see the Silver Sundew (Drosera derbyensis) fully expanded, lots of Beefwood (Grevillia striata) flowers and a few other bits and pieces. We have only made it to Derby, but with the rain it may not be much further…
Tomorrow a little about boabs.
Images: The pea-flower Crotalaria cunninghamii, named after one-time and briefly Director of Sydney’s Botanic Gardens, Allan Cunningham, who collected it from Cygnet Bay; the Kimberley Heather (Calytrix exstipulata); and the Silver Sundew. In reverse order.
Many thanks to Kevin Kenneally, Daphne Choules Edinger and Tim Willing for their book ‘Broome and Beyond’ which gave me information about Barrgana, as well as the local flora. The rest of the seasonal information comes from a variety of sources.