Spear Grass (Sarga intrans), is important for Aboriginal people as the stems provide a large proportion of the annual fuel load of dry grass that is burnt early in the dry season. Burning grass is an essential element of land management for traditional custodians and is likened to ‘cleaning up’ or providing medicine or fertiliser for country after the heavy rains. Fire is seen as providing balance to savanna landscapes after the cloudiness, dampness and often floods of the wet season. Without the volume of fuel provided by the Spear Grass stems this fire cleansing would not be possible.
Spear Grass seeds and stems also provide a large amount of organic matter every season and it is one of the most efficient and important energy converters in the savanna habitat. The seeds and stems provide food and shelter for many animals, mainly invertebrates, in savanna habitats.
As a plant it is incredibly well adapted to the wet-dry tropics annual period of aridity, when it survives as a seed bank on the ground. It then takes advantage of the pre-wet humidity build-up, which causes the seed awns to absorb moisture and twist. This drives the seeds into the ground so that they are ready to germinate with the first rains and not be washed away. Once germinated, the leaves are produced to begin photosynthesis, this powers the stems to elongate quickly and get the seeds as high as possible to aid dispersal.
Winsome has captured the essence of two of the principal characteristics of Spear Grass in her prints, the seeds and the stems.