Beautiful Banksias

One of Australia’s unique species, Banksias come in all shapes and sizes. Where we lived all our lives until twelve years ago, on the Hawkesbury sandstone country around Sydney, we mainly saw Banksia serrata. They were immortalised by an inspired author and artist May Gibbs, who wrote about Snugglepot and Cuddlepie the little gum-blossom babies.

The big bad Banksia Men are the villains of the story and are modelled on the appearance of aged Banksia “cones”, with follicles for eyes and other facial features. As a child May Gibbs thought of them as ugly wicked little men, and so they became in her stories.

Banksia serrata

However we always loved them, and we would miss them, but here the Banksia integrifolia (or Coast banksia) is absolutely splendid. We grow a few other species, but the Coast banksia is prolific, attracting a huge nectar-eating bird population. Here you can see the silvery underside of the leaves as they blow in the wind.

Banksia integrifolia

Here they are against the sky, flowering prolifically at present,

so many flowers, the birds love them!

here is a close-up of the flowers and an open follicle.

flowers at different stages, plus seed pods open

We have planted one hybrid named  Banksia “Giant Candles” which has particularly tall flowers, up to 40cm long!

Banksia ‘Giant Candles’ a natural hybrid of B. ericifolia and B. spinulosa

Also in our garden (which is planted to provide food and habitat for birds) we have Banksia ‘Red Rover’

Banksia ericifolia ‘Red Rover’

Many popular cultivars have been developed from Banksia spinulosa, here are some at our local Botanical Gardens ….

Dwarf Banksia spinulosa line the path at Eurobodalla Botanic Gardens

Much as we love the banksias there are creatures who love them more, and depend on them for their sweet nectar. The flowers provide a major source of food for honeyeaters, spinebills, wattlebirds, lorikeets and pygmy-possums, as well as a large number of nectivorous invertebrates upon which insectivorous vertebrates will feed. Cockatoos can break open the hard woody follicles and eat the seed.

upside-down rainbow lorikeet feeding on nectar

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11 thoughts on “Beautiful Banksias

  1. Christine, your photographs are phenomenal. Being from America, I’ve never heard of Banksias, so this whole post was indeed a treat! 🙂 Wonderful share. Thank you.

  2. even the dwarf bansias look enormous. We have started importing them here now and they do very well in the south of england, especially here in Cornwall.

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