Cycads are extremely slow-growing, fire-resistant plants found throughout the tropics, with tough, palm-like fronds – relics of the age of dinosaurs. Female plants produce large cones that break up into bright orange segments, each containing a seed; these are eaten (and so distributed) by emus, among other creatures. Despite being highly toxic to humans – almost every early Australian explorer made himself violently ill trying them – these seeds were a staple of Aborigines, who detoxified flour made from the nuts by prolonged washing. They also applied “fire-stick farming” techniques, encouraging groves to grow and seed by annual burning.

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