Australia’s Real Seasonal Calendar

By David Thompson, Engagement Manager Australian Institute of Horticulture

In 2014, AIH Horticulturist Member Dr Tim Entwisle MAIH released his book ‘Sprinter and Sprummer’ and recommended that Australia’s imported four-season calendar does not really reflect the nature of Australia’s seasons. In fact, like our indigenous descendants, a more accurate calendar of the seasons in Australia would contain six seasons.

In his book, Tim mentions that there is only one record of Aboriginal seasonality that uses four seasons – almost all Aboriginal seasons have six and sometimes seven to reflect the changing habits of plants, animals and climate that they witnessed over thousands of years.

For southern Australia, Tim suggests that annual calendar should look like:

Sprinter (August and September), the early Australian spring, starts my seasonal year. It’s when the bushland and our gardens burst into flower. It’s also when that quintessential Australian plant, the wattle, is in peak flowering across Australia.

Sprummer (October and November) is the changeable season, bringing a second wave of flowering.

Summer (December to March) should be four months long, extending beyond February, when there are still plenty of fine warm days.

Autumn (April and May) barely registers in Sydney, but further south we get good autumn colour on exotic trees, as well as peak fungal fruiting.

Winter (June and July) is a short burst of cold weather and a time when the plant world is preparing for the sprinter ahead.

Most of us know how long Aussie summers feel – and that’s where Tim suggests the summer should actually run from December to March because it often remains hot and dry to late March or later, and thus a shorter autumn.

One of the lasting memories of our AIH Perth Conference was the place of the six-season Noongar calendar that the first people of what is now Perth lived by. There was majesty and story in the connections between the local fauna and flora of the region that enabled local people to thrive for thousands of years marked by the annual cycles of growth, rest and renewal of plants and animals.

 


Six Seasons of the Aboriginal (Noongar) Calendar. Image Source: Australia’s South West.

What is Tim’s reaction to this idea six years later?

“Overall the responses have been overwhelmingly positive,’ he says. ‘Not that people are necessarily rushing out to demand the seasons change, but they are enjoying thinking about things in a new way and thinking about the country we live in more carefully.”

 

Dr Tim Entwisle MAIH runs Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne and has also worked at the world-famous Botanic Gardens in Kew, England, and as Director of Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens (an AIH Corporate Sponsor Member).

 

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1 comment

It would be amazing to see a copy of one of these seasonal calendars for the Nyoongar Wadjuk land in the now Southwest Region of WA…

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