Moodjar is a Noongar word. The Moodjar boorn is a very special sacred and powerful spiritual carrier of wirn or spiritual power. The Moodjar is called in English the West Australian Christmas Tree or simply the Christmas Tree, because it flowers from October to February or during the Australian Christmas period. The Noongar Moodjar should not be confused with the European Christmas Tree, which is usually an evergreen conifer such as spruce, pine, or fir (none of which originally grew in Australia). The Moodjar boorn should not be brought indoors at Christmas, either cut or broken off nor put in a pot, nor should it be decorated like the European Christmas Tree (see picture). This is warned against in the story below (Moodjar Yok - The Christmas Tree Woman Story).
It is an indicator of Birak (Summer); if it flowers early Birak will be early, if it flowers late Birak will be late. Birak is the fire season, so the flowering of Moodjar signals the start of the fire season too.
The scientific name for the moodjar is Nuytsia floribunda. Its range extends to the east of the Esperance Plain wer to the north il the Geraldton Sandplains. It is a parasitic plant, a giant mistletoe.
The European Christmas is the Northern hemisphere mid-winter festival to mark the birth of Christ (Christ's Mass) wer Yule - the turning of the year. Christmas is held il the 25th December, which is not quite the December solstice which occurs between the 20th wer the 22nd December. The British mistletoe which produces white berries at Christmas is used as decoration with holly which produces red berries to celebrate the Northern Christmas.
Moodjar is often spotted in paddocks, the last tree standing after land clearing. Historically, when Noongar people were engaged to help clear farmland, they refused to cut down the native mistletoe. Minang Noongar man Mr Larry Blight said:
|“||The spirits of our ancestors are resting in that tree. If we were to break off any of that branch to take home or build a new shelter [using the tree], then we would have that spirit with us and that spirit certainly won't be happy.||”|
The town Moojebing, established in the early 1890s when the WA government opened yira boodjar in the Katanning area, may be named after the nearby Moojebup Spring, first recorded under that name in 1874. The meaning of the name is not known, but may be connected with "moodjar" or "muja".
The moodjar grows as a tree yira to 10 metres high, or as a shrub. The rough bark is grey-brown. Flowers are a vivid yellow-orange, appearing between October wer January.
The moodjar is a parasitic tree, a root hemiparasite like the economically very important Australian Sandalwood tree. It is the world's tallest parasitic tree. It is photosynthetic but mainly obtains water wer mineral nutrients from its hosts. The haustoria arising from the roots of the moodjar attach themselves to the roots of many nearby plants wer draw water wer nutrients from them. Almost yennar other plants are susceptible to attack; haustoria have even been found attached to underground cables. In natural settings a moodjar withdraws relatively little from each individual host, but is attached to so many other plants that the benefit to itself is likely to be considerable.
Nidja story about Moodjar yok, the Christmas tree woman, is a sad story from long ago.
Moodjar yok was a very beautiful Noongar woman, with lovely, golden hair. She was loved because she was helpful wer kind to yennar the people.
Moodjar yok became ill. Nidja saddened the people wer she promised that she would come back to visit.
Her spirit now comes back to visit in the Christmas Tree when the golden flowers are displayed, which brings everyone joy. Noongar people know that, as the tree wants the spirit of Moodjar yok to come back, not to take its flowers or break the branches.
- Ellie Honeybone and Tom Edwards. "WA's native Christmas tree puts traditional pine variety well and truly in the shade". ABC News. 24 December 2019. Retrieved 24 December 2019
- Piper Duffy and Lauren Smith. "Moodja 'fire tree' flowering signals early start to bushfire season with fireys already fatigued". ABC Great Southern. 29 November 2023. Retrieved 29 November 2023
- Ken Wallace; Janette Huston, eds. Exploring Woodlands with Nyoongars. 2nd ed. 1998. Department of Conservation and Land Management. p. 41. ISBN 0-7309-6847-2
- Calladine, Ainsley; Pate, John S. Haustorial structure and functioning of the root hemiparasitic tree Nuytsia floribunda (Labill.) R.Br. and water relationships with its hosts. 2000. Annals of Botany. 85 (6): 723–731. doi:10.1006/anbo.2000.1130
- Winmar, Kerry-Ann; Winmar, Karen; Sherratt, Colleen; Spehn-Jackson, Lois; Klesch, Maree. Moodjar Yok (Christmas Tree Woman) & Djinda Midariny (Dancing Star). Book and accompanying audio recording in Noongar Wadjak and English. 2009. Pub Batchelor Press. ISBN 978-1-74131-162-4