A Plant to Symbolize Australian Hermits

The Little Brothers of Francis are an Anglican Franciscan community of Brothers who desire to deepen their relationship with God through prayer, manual work, community and times of being alone in their hermitages. They follow the Rule written by Saint Francis for Hermitages in which three or four Brothers live in each fraternity. They live at Tabulam in northern New South Wales.
LBST Hermitage
The Brothers have named their home for a remarkable Australian plant:

“One of the beautiful flowering shrubs of Australia’s arid areas is eremophila. It has many diverse forms – some are small tree-like shrubs, others are quite small (under 30 cm); some have almost needle-like leaves; some have short stubby leaves; and yet others have long, hanging strappy leaves.

The flowers are small and trumpet-like and may be white, pink, yellow, mauve or orange. When they are in flower, they can be especially showy, like E Sturtii that is common in western New South Wales and south-western Queensland.

This diversity within one plant family is seen as symbolic of the personalities, gifts and skills to be found and honoured among the Brothers, yet belonging and committed to their vocation within the community of Brothers.

The plant is called eremophila because it is a shrub of the arid zone. The name eremophila comes from two Greek words: eremos – solitude, desert, wilderness, lonely place; phileo – to love. Eremophila is a lover of the desert or wilderness.

We have chosen Eremophila as the name of our place. Although this is not a desert, it is somewhat isolated, as our visitors often remark! For us, however, it is a reminder of the place of solitude in the religious life. The early monks made their homes in the desert and places of solitude were important in the life of Francis and the early Franciscan movement, as they were in the life of Christ Himself. To call our place Eremophila is a way of acknowledging this tradition in our Australian context and also of recognising one of the great beauties of the Australian desert.”

See the Brother’s website: http://www.franciscanhermitage.org/
eremophila nivea
“The family Myoporaceae is found to be concentrated in Australia in the semi-arid and arid regions, being found in all mainland states and the Northern Territory. The largest number of species is located in Western Australia; the greatest density being in the Eremaean Botanical Province, centred on the Willuna area. It is represented by two genera, Eremophila R. Br. and Myoporum Sol. ex Forster f..

Eremophilas have been used in Aboriginal tribal life in both cultural and medicinal roles. Plant material has been used in ceremonial rites, extracts and decoctions of plant parts have been used as liniments, medicines and antiseptics. The resinous exudants from some species, being used as sealants and adhesives. (Richmond 1993).

Currently 214 species of Eremophila are recognised, some 70 or so are to be published in the near future, in addition, approximately 50 subspecies will be validated. (Chinnock pers. comm. 1997).

Approximately 75% of eremophilas are insect pollinated (entomophilous), with the remainder being bird pollinated (ornithophilous).

Eremophila species are locally dominant in many areas, often growing in impoverished sites; in general they are tolerant of harsh conditions, including drought, fire, frost, flooding and grazing – the name Poverty Bush being aptly applied. In addition to this name, they may also be referred to as Emu Bush, Fuchsia Bush, Tar or Turpentine Bush. Common names applied to particular species are many and varied, whilst Aboriginal people have names for plants which they use.”



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