Scientific Name: Banksia seminuda
Common Names: River Banksia
Plant Type: Tree to 75'
Environment: Well-drained soil, full sun or partial shade, with some summer watering; best not to fertilize, but if you do, use only low phosphorous fertilizers
Bloom: December to February at the Garden, April to July in Western Australia
Uses: Distinctive tree for public gardens and parks; timber used in carpentry
Other: The flower heads are made up of hundreds of tiny individual flowers grouped together in pairs.The fruits of Banksia (called follicles) are hard and woody and often grouped together to resemble cones. They are not true cones, though, as they are only produced by conifers.The follicles are serotinous, requiring extreme heat or fire to open and release the two black-winged seeds.
Australia, an island continent isolated by oceans from the rest of the world, has stunning biodiversity of plants. In 1770, Captain Cook and Sir Joseph Banks, his botanist on board the Endeavor, were the first white men to land at "Botany Bay" (Cook's name), and discovered a plant with spikes of golden flowers appearing like ripe ears of corn or bronzed pinecones. Cook, a master navigator and labeler of newly discovered lands and seas, named Banksia after the 26-year-old botanist.
The flower spikes of Banksias are terminal and consist of thousands of individual flowers in pairs around a central woody cone. The brilliant golden-orange styles of River Banksia flare out with soft curved hooks from the woody axis. Sunbirds, with long beaks, can sip out the rich nectar contained deep within them. Old cones from years past perch on the branches, and the winged seeds embedded in the ovaries can remain on the cone indefinitely until the heat of a wildfire forces them open.
Along the southwestern and southeastern coastal areas of Australia are close to 76 species of Banksia with a great variety of leaves and growth habits. From prostrate ground growers, to shrubs, to trees with irregular trunks, Banksia are quite differentiated. A few species are also found in southern New Guinea. River Banksia is a small tree with long slender serrated leaves with pale undersides. The flowers are a magnificent red-gold.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Photos by Joanne Taylor;Additional photography by James Gaither text by Kathy McNeil; profile by David Kruse-Pickler