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wax

Wax (as it is called locally) is a black substance of vegetable and animal origin used as an adhesive or fixative much as glue and putty. Tree resins are used as wax, as well as wax harvested from a sugarbag. Sugarbag wax is the material secreted by sugarbag bees in the construction of the cells of the honeycomb, and is a true wax.

For convenience, tree wax is commonly carried on a stick, called a "gumstick." Alternately, it may be carried rolled into a ball.

Wax is crucial in material culture, having many important uses.

Wax is softened by heating it over a fire or by chewing it. It may then be applied in the desired way, smoothed out and/or flattened with a resin pallet, and left to harden.
Certain types of trees (listed on the Plant usage page) have a resin on the bark of their roots which may be removed, processed, and used as wax.

The adjacent image shows an Uw Olkola elder digging up forest wax tree roots with an axe near Middle Creek in the Alice-Mitchell Rivers National Park. The tree is fine-leafed beefwood or forest wax tree, Grevillea coriacea. By tapping on the ground with the butt of an axe around the base of a tree it is possible to tell where the good roots are. After the roots are dug up they are heated over a campfire and the resin is then scraped off with a stick. The resin is continually processed until it reaches an appropriate purity and consistency for use.

A list of tree species which are sources of wax is found on the Plant usage page. In most cases a tree and its wax product go by the same name (for example, in Uw Oykangand uk arral is used for both the fine-leafed beefwood or forest wax tree, Grevillea coriacea and its wax product). But grasstree wax has a special name in Olkola: ulginb.



images

A fifty cent coin occurs in many photos to allow for an estimation of size. The Australian fifty cent coin is approximately 32 mm in diameter.


Wax gumstick, Kowanyama Land and Natural Resources Management Office, Sun Mar 16 1997 [PH]


Wax gumstick, Kowanyama Land and Natural Resources Management Office, Sun Mar 16 1997 [PH]


Sugarbag wax ball, Kowanyama Land and Natural Resources Management Office, April 1996 [PH]


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