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.
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.
Here they are against the sky, flowering prolifically at present,
here is a close-up of the flowers and an open follicle.
We have planted one hybrid named Banksia “Giant Candles” which has particularly tall flowers, up to 40cm long!
Also in our garden (which is planted to provide food and habitat for birds) we have Banksia ‘Red Rover’
Many popular cultivars have been developed from Banksia spinulosa, here are some at our local Botanical 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.