Bellinger valley

Bellinger valley, Forest of Aniseed Myrtle, Backhosia anisata, 2006


Written by Maree Blewitt

There is an old growth forest in the valley that few human eyes have seen.  Protected by its isolation and by the National Park & Wildlife Service regulation, this forest of Ringwood giants – some 40 meters tall and 5 meters around – is an ancient reminder of a former glory.   These lush rainforest trees have evolved in one small valley in the world and exist, naturally, nowhere else.  Although there are several remnant populations in the valley, there is none so grand, so awe-inspiring, as the old growth forest.

The following poem by Evelyn Cadman, is an ode to this magical place.



Forest of Aniseed – stately and grand
Tucked away safely, away from demand
Fills the air with parochial scent
And carpet the floor with leaves that are spent.

Beautiful forest of medieval feel
Whispers of passing time and things that are real
Visions of otherworlds or a universe complete
In the palm understorey and ferns at your feet.

A precious place is this forest so rare –
Such a privilege to know it is there.
In an uncertain world of chaos and dilemma
This place creates the ultimate centre.
These rain loving, rainforests giants grow beside the waterways, dipping their roots into the cool waters and acidic soils on which they thrive.  Once Kings of the Valley, Protectors of the Waterways, the Ringwood Lords have a familiar scent of aniseed. How is this possible that different species from different parts of the world possess the same aromatic compounds? Evolutionary biologists would call it convergent evolution.  Nature works in mysterious ways and I, for one, will never cease to marvel at her wizardry.

Common to all aniseed-scented plants, such as Fennel and Aniseed from Europe, and Star Anise from China, is the organic compound, anethole.  Australia’s very own Ringwood (Anetholea anisata syn. Backhousia anisata, commonly known as Aniseed Myrtle) is particularly high in this compound.  Anethole has a sweet refreshing scent and is a stimulant with bactericidal properties.  A study, cited in the September 2000 edition of the ‘Natural Health Review’ magazine, showed that Backhousia anisata essential oil inhibits the growth of several species of bacteria.

The aromatic potential of this rare Australian native was first investigated by the NSW Forestry Commission in the 1940s, when the war in Europe made European sources of anethole inaccessible. Sixty years later, this potential has been revived. This hand-tended plantation grows side-by side with the wild creek-side trees in their natural habitat.  The trees are hand-harvested and distilled to yield a high quality pure essential oil that cannot be duplicated in conditions outside the natural range of this species.

Aniseed Myrtle potential applications:

The plants, rich in anethole, is considered to be:
•        expectorant
•        sedative and
•        stimulant in cough medicines.
•        antiseptic
•        bactericide
•        cancer-preventative
•        carminative
•        fungicide
•        gastro stimulant


Natural, unadulterated plant oils are a complex combination of naturally occurring organic compounds.   Although we can identify most of the compounds present in essential oils, the dynamic interaction of these compounds cannot be fully understood, yet alone replicated, by humankind.

ANISEED MYRTLE (Leaf essential oil)
Anetholea anisata ct anethole – a natural source of Anethole

Oil yield:   0.7% – 2%

Main components:
Trans-E-anethole   73 – 88%    aromatic ether
Methyl chavicol       7 – 22%   aromatic ether
Aromatic ethers are known to have bactericidal properties and are stimulating to the nervous and immune systems.   They may cause
skin irritation in some individuals.

Minor components:
1,8 Cineole      1%   oxide
Phellandrene   1%   terpene
Other minor components occur in amounts of  0.1% or less, and are mainly terpenes:  thujee, myrcene, limonene, terpinolene,
cymene, pinene and terpinene.
Terpenes have a low aroma level and are known to be antiseptic, antiviral, bactericidal, analgesic, and to stimulate the immune system.  They are thought to dilute the irritant effects of other compounds.

Note:   A recent study of the anti-microbial effects of native Australian plant oils indicates that Aniseed Myrtle essential oil inhibits the growth of several species of bacteria, namely, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Aspergillus niger and Candida albicans.



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