Boab Prison Tree
The Boab Prison Tree is located 6kms south of Derby and is said to be 1,500 years old.  It is a massive old girl with a girth of 14.7 metres.

Excerpt from the Information Boards on-site regarding the Boab
The large white flowers of the Boab open for one night only.  It is pollinated by hawk moths and other insects attracted to its nectar.

A useful tree

The Nyikina people of DSerby call the boab tree Larrkardiy.  They have names for all parts of the tree as it was so useful.  Birr (the roots of young trees), karrkira (pith) and ngibi (seeds of green and mature nuts were used for food and medicine.  String can be made from the bark of the trunk and the root. Water can be found in the hollow cavities after rain.  The bark of magali (young boab trees) can be chewed to freshen the mouth.

How long does the boab tree live?

The age of a boab tree is difficult to determine as old trees are hollow and have no growth rings.  Experts have concluded that some of the very large trees could be thousands of years old.

How does the boab tree spread?

The nut of the Australian boab has a very thin shell.  This cracks when the nut falls from the tree.  The seeds are embedded in a white pithy substance rich in vitamin C.  Marsupials, such as the Agile wallaby, are attracted to this food and have assisted in the spread of the tree.

Boab Tree is a survivor

A boab tree can withstand bushfires and drought.  It stores water in its fibrous tissues during the Wet season and actually swells in diameter.  It is deciduous, shedding its leaves in the Dry season.  When burnt it “peels” shedding an outer layer of thin bark.

How does a Boab Tree die?

Many boab trees are struck by lightning.  Due to the fibrous nature of the trunk and branches, a boab tree that dies collapses and decays quickly under attack from fungi, insects and microbes.

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Excerpt from the Information Boards on-site regarding the historical use of the Boab Prison Tree.
Before Derby was established in 1883, Aboriginal people were kidnapped from the West Kimberley.  The kidnappers, knowns as blackbirders, were settlers who were connected with the pearling industry.

They wanted divers and workers for the pearling boats.

They rounded people up, put them in chains and marched them to the coast.  Some may have held their captives at the Boab Prison Tree while they waited for a boat.

Early pastoralists helped the blackbirders because they thought that removing the young me would guarantee peaceful behaviour from the older ones left behind.  The Aboriginal people resisted.  A settler named Anthony Cornish was killed in December 1882.  Police then came from Roebourne and took more people away.
End of excerpt

A statue commemorating women’s contribution to the pearling industry sits proudly on the foreshore of Roebuck Bay.