Indigenous Weather Knowledge
Approximately 180km west of Katherine, showing four seasons. Wardaman land runs from the upper reaches of the Flora River in the north to Scott Creek in the northwest, south along the major waterways towards the Victoria river in the west and to Romula Knob in the east.
End of wet season
Permission to use the Wardaman seasonal calendar is granted by Mr Bill Harney Snr, Chairman, Wardaman Aboriginal Corporation.
Wardaman is used to describe the language, the land and the people traditionally associated with an area of land to the southwest of what is now Katherine township in the Northern Territory. Wardaman land includes country from the upper reaches of the Flora River in the north to Scott Creek in the northwest, then south along the major waterways towards the Victoria river in the west and to Romula Knob in the east.
About the Wardaman seasonal calendar
There are four distinct major weather patterns recognised in the Wardaman seasonal cycle. The seasons are primarily defined by weather patterns and also by environmental events such as plant flowering and fruiting and animal behavioural patterns.
It must be emphasised that the onset and duration of the seasons varies significantly from year to year and the calendar months are provided as a guide only.
Navigate back up to the calendar overview with the links at the end of each season.
Late summer: December-February
Heavy rains and flooding
The lifestyle for the Wardaman communities during Yijilg
This is the wet season when rain falls daily, often in large amounts. Often travel is restricted due to flooding and the boggy nature of heavy soils on black soil plains.
Fruits available in this season include Bungen (Ficus platypoda and F. leucotricha), Buda (Vitex glabrata) and Julamarran (Flueggea virosa).
In the past Wolon (Heteropogon contortus) grass was used to make a covering for bush houses which were constructed in Yijilg to provide protection from rain.
Towards the end of Yijilg and into Wulujujun, when the Berndeny (Heteropogon triticeus) or "Bush sugar cane" is succulent and juicy, the stems are chewed and sucked to obtain the sweet liquid inside. The stems are broken into short lengths so that they may be carried easily.
Yidawurru (Citrullus lanatus) or watermelon are often found growing along roadsides during this season and are much sought after for their fruit.
The Bawujin (Brachystelma glabriflorum) or bush potato is best dug up in the Yijilg season when they are fat and juicy after the rains. The small disc shaped tubers or yams are dug up, washed and eaten, they are especially favored by children. The dark flowers, Ngayal, on the stem hang downwards and point to areas where other yams may be found.
Wulujujun—end of the wet season
Last of the rains
The lifestyle for the Wardaman communities during Wulujujun
Fruit available include Magorigori (Ampelocissus acetosa and A. frutescens), Yiwung (Antidesma ghesaembilla), Mlyarlunguj (Antidesma parvifolia), Julamarran (Flueggea virosa), Menyjeng (Terminalia erythrocarpa) and Mordon (Vigna lanceolata, V. vexillata). The yams of Magulu (Dioscorea bulbifera) and Megerrman/Gawkawili (Dioscorea transversa) and Gayalarrin (Typhonium liliifollum) are also available.
The Gayalarrin tuber is washed repeatedly, before being smashed on a stone and cooked on hot ashes. The process is then repeated again before eating. The leaves are only visible in the Wulujujun season but the tuber is available all year round. This plant can be found on black soil country, Bern-gijin.
The ripe fruit of the Yiwung are dark blue to black and are a highly regarded food resource. They are produced at the end of this season. Various birds and fruit bats also eat the fruit. Harlequin bugs are often found on this species.
The fruit of the Magorigori are eaten when black and ripe. They are sweet to taste but leave a sour after taste. When the fruits are ripe, blue tongue lizards, Burarriman and Yarringa, are fat and ready to catch and eat.
Cold weather and dry weather
The lifestyle for the Wardaman communities during Wujerrijin
This is the dry season when the weather is cold and no rain falls. The skies are generally clear of clouds. Jegban (bush turkey), Gangman (kangaroo) and Walanja (goanna) will be properly fat and good to eat. Gardi (Nymphaea macrosperma, N. viloacea), waterlilies seeds, are now ready for collection to eat raw or make into damper.
Fruits available in this season include Lerrwewen (Ficus opposita), Merdengdeng (Ficus scobina), Jamagarra (Nauclea orientalis), Buda (Vitex glabrata), Manamurran (Grewia retusifolia), Mardulg (Cucumis melo, small leaf), Ngarlwog (Cucumis melo, large leaf), Mardarrgu (Ziziphus quadrilocularis) and Julamarran (Briedelia tomentosa). The seeds of Bardigi (Terminalia arostrata) and the tubers of Ginyuwurru (Cyperus bulbosus) are also available to be eaten.
The fruit of the Ngarlwog is eaten when ripe and pale green to yellow in colour. The hairs should be washed or rubbed off the skin of the fruit before eating as they can irritate the lips and tongue. The fruit of the Mardulg is also eaten when the fruit is ripe, pale green to yellow. As for Ngarlwog, the fruit needs to be prepared before eating to avoid irritation. Bitter fruits can be cooked or softened in hot sand that has been heated under a fire.
The fruit of the Buda are eaten when they are black and ripe. They are sweet and very pleasant tasting. The fruits can be dried, mixed with red ochre and stored wrapped in paperbark envelope for later use. Fruit are available at the end of the Wujerrijin or early Yijilg seasons. The rain bird, Juwogban, calls out when it is time to collect the fruit and eat them. Dry, straight branches and stems are used as firesticks, Jinggiyn or bush matches, to light fires.
The small tubers of the Ginyuwurru are dug up and may be eaten raw or after cooking in hot coals and ashes. The tubers are collected in Wujerrijin season when they are properly formed after the wet.
In this season, the fruit of the Bardigi are cracked open between stones and the seed inside is taken out and eaten. The bark of the Bardigi is used as medicine for scabies and measles. It is boiled in water and the liquid is used as a wash. The bark is also boiled in water and used as a dye for dyeing.
Very hot ground
Some inconsistent rain.
The lifestyle for the Wardaman communities during Ngurruwun
Dingo by Luke Shelley
This is the hot weather time when the ground becomes very hot to walk on. The first rains begin but they are inconsistent. It is also the time of flowering for many plants including Binin and Dangirndi (Melaleuca spp.). Bardigi (Terminalia grandiflora), Galarwarriny (Eucalyptus confertiflora) and Yiwung (Antidesma ghesaembilla).
Fruits available in this season include Gulid (Buchanania obovata), Mirdiwan (Ficus racemosa) and Belwern (Syzygium eucalyptoides and S. forte). Jen-gen (Brachychiton megaphyllus) begins to flower to indicate the start of this season.
The appearance of March flies in September or October indicates the end of the dry season and beginning of the buildup. When they start biting it also indicates that freshwater crocodiles are laying their eggs.
The ripe pale pink fruit of the Belwern (pink apple) are ready for eating. The fruit can be collected by scooping them off the top of the water as they float along with the current. This species grows in the river country, Yirrgulun. The fruit of the Belwern (white apple) are also ready for eating. The papery bark of this species can also be used to cover the top of ground ovens before covering with earth ready for cooking. The species also grows in Yirrgulun.
The fruit of the Gulid are eaten when ripe, green but soft to touch. The fruits are considered to have high Vitamin C levels. Flowers are produced during the hot, dry period, the same time that Mango trees flower. Some birds, Jigjig eat the flowers. The fruits are also eaten by kangaroos and wallabies, Gangman, and also some birds such as parrots and friar birds. Fruit are available when the early rains are falling, the same time that Mango fruit are produced. The fruit are often collected from the ground.
The swollen tap root of the young Gulid plants may be eaten raw or roasted. The leaves and bark may be boiled in water and the liquid used for as a washing medicine to treat skin sores and scabies. The young roots of this plant are used to treat toothache. The roots are heated on the fire and then held against the painful tooth to relieve pain.