Lomandra longifolia
THE SAGG - from neglect to respect.           -  by Phil Watson

Lomandra longifolia, better known as "Sagg" or 'Spiny Headed Mat Rush" is a small tufted rush, with long strap like, green leaves. From the leaf base a tall slender, attractive yellow flower spike appears in the early growing season and persists for many weeks. As the spike matures, the structure is replaced by a tan, fruit bearing shaft, composed of attractive clusters of small nutlets.
Changing Attitudes from Farmers
Its importance to the Aborigines cannot be under estimated. However, in contrast to the respect shown for the plant by them, pastoralists and farmers from early colonial times up to now, have neglected and weeded out this native rush, probably because of it's "image" as a harsh tussocky plant with cutting edges on the leaves! 

Generally they considered it as an intruder, capable of degrading their fine pastures, which prompted a search and destroy attitude resulting in its removal by ploughing under, digging out, burning or spraying.

Today, the farmer's attitude is changing towards the sagg. This is a spin off from their awareness of the values associated with their property's remnant bushland, be it pristine or degraded. Not only is sagg being accepted as an integral part of their grassy woodlands, it is being recognised for the important roles it performs. Its rapid re-establishment within degraded remnants heralds the beginning of a natural
regeneration process, ultimately leading to the return of the original biodiversity to the area. Farmers consider this outcome essential for conservation and stock shelter reasons.

The sagg provides an important buffer to the elements and provides protection during the regeneration of the more sensitive plants within the original vegetation community. It promotes native butterfly populations by being a larval food source for their caterpillars, and its ability to create refuges and habitat for native birds, fauna ( eg bandicoots), as well as a myriad of insects, in conjunction with its ability to produce the first flush of new greenery in the blackened moonscape following wildfires or prescribed burns, has helped it regain respect amongst today’s environmentally aware farmers. This photo represents less than 4 months regrowth. 

Lomandra longifolia regrowth

Landscape and Garden Values
In recent years, sagg has proven to be a popular landscape plant, respected and used by landscape architects and horticulturalists alike, for its resilience and consistency of form. When incorporated as framework plants, either in formal settings or in revegetation projects, they consistently perform their amenity and ecological roles, with minimal followup maintenance requirements. They are tolerant of climatic extremes and soil conditions, which will often cause the demise of most other "hardy" native plants. They also establish with ease from either seedlings or transplanted mature plants. Transplants are
commonly available from building or development sites, where earthworks destroy most of the other
native vegetation, which will generally die if transplanting is attempted.

Away from these public sites, they are equally valuable as feature plants in a domestic landscape
setting. They add textural interest to rockeries and native gardens due to their foliage, flowers and
fruits. They can even be picked (with care) for use as attractive shapes in floral art or dried vase arrangements.

Aboriginal Plant Use
Aboriginal families travelling through the woodland landscapes, relied on their intimate knowledge of native plants to relieve their hunger and dryness. Due to its availability, the sagg provided an easy means of gaining a tasty moist snack. One could imagine the youngsters extracting the young central leaves from the tussocks and enjoying the pea like taste and texture of the moist, white leaf bases - the equivalent of today's "Mars Bar". When camped in one place, the nectar-laden flowers were steeped in water to provide a sweet drink. With a few squashed ants, to provide a formic acid source (citrus taste), plus time enough for fermentation, they could expect the final brew to provide a relatively relaxing experience.

The leaves were important for making dillies. These woven baskets were used for collecting plant foods
or shellfish such as oysters, mussels, scallops, and even crayfish. The women would dive off the rocks
into the cold estuarine waters, with their dillies strapped over their shoulders to collect a feed of the bountiful shellfish with these versatile baskets.

The baskets were made for carrying most of their needs using the following basic method. The leaves
once picked were split down the centre into two and left to dry for 3 or more days. Before being worked
they were dampened with water for 24 hours to render them pliable. This process of making the leaves supple, also allowed their use for bandaging sores or abscesses on the arms and legs, which needed to be kept clean and tied up.

Conclusion
Over the last few years the sagg has finally regained the respect shown by the original aboriginal land managers. Today's land managers are now realising the potential of this “too common to be useful" native rush. Its future is assured.

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