Wildflowers, Photos … and Banksias

Submitted: Saturday, Feb 26, 2011 at 11:34
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Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander must have been astounded at the remarkable plants they found when they came ashore at Botany Bay in 1770. They were botanists on the Endeavour under the command of Captain James Cook.

Along with many other plants never before seen by Europeans, they collected four Banksia species at Botany Bay. Later they collected another Banksia at the Endeavour River near present day Cooktown. Those Banksias were taken back to England where they were described and named by Carolus Linnaeus the Younger. The genus name honours Sir Joseph Banks.

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Today Banksias are known world-wide. They are cultivated for cut flowers and exported all across the world as well as being used widely in Australian gardens.

Banksia is a genus of about 80 species in the Proteaceae family (although some scientists now include Dryandras in with Banksias. In this thread I have just talked about Banksias.). All species occur in Australia with one extending to islands to Australia's north. The south western corner of WA contains the greatest diversity of banksias, where about 60 species are found. There are no species common to both eastern and western Australia except the Tropical Banksia, Banksia dentate.

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They can be found in a wide variety of landscapes - eucalypt forest, alpine and coastal heaths, shrubland, and in more arid landscapes, though not in Australia's deserts.

In most Banksias the familiar flower is really a collection of hundreds or even thousands of tiny individual flowers densely clustered into a cylindrical spike. Flowers are usually a shade of yellow, but orange, red, pink, violet and even purplish black and purplish green flowers occur. Flowers open progressively upwards along the spike resulting in changes to the colour and texture of the spike.

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Banksia flowers are followed by large, woody "cones" which contain the seeds. In most species the “cones” remain tightly closed unless stimulated to open by heat from a bushfire. Each seed has a papery wing that causes it to spin and be blown by the wind away from the parent plant.

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The leaves of Banksia vary greatly. They are usually hard or leathery, generally serrated, toothed or lobed. Sizes vary from the narrow, 1–1½ cm leaves of the Heath-leaved Banksia, to the very large 45 cm leaves of Bull Banksia. In many species the juvenile and adult leaves are different. The underside of leaves is conspicuously white or silvery in some species, while some have colourful new foliage, sometimes velvety, in tones of white to pink to brown.

The tough, rugged appearance of Banksias is an appealing feature. The tree species usually have a single trunk, covered with thick rough bark. The shrubs often have many stems and carry their erect flowers down to ground level. Most Banksias are medium sized woody shrubs but a few can become large trees up to 30 metres tall. Some are prostrate with stems running below the ground, their flowers emerging at ground level.

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Banksias that are native to areas where fires occur regularly often have a lignotuber, a woody swelling at or below ground level. If the above ground stems are destroyed, regeneration of the plant can occur from buds in the lignotuber, but they take several years to reach flowering stage again. Other species are killed by fire and regenerate from seed.

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Banksias are heavy producers of nectar, and form a vital part of the food chain in the bush. They provide food for nectar-feeding animals, including birds, bats, native rats, possums, stingless bees and many invertebrates. In return for nectar these animals pollinate the Banksia flowers.

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Aborigines used the sweet nectar from the flowers as part of their diet, giving rise to a common name among early European settlers of native honeysuckle.

Banksias are of economic importance to Australia's nursery and cut flower industries. Several new varieties or cultivars have been bred for the nursery trade. Banksia wood is only occasionally used by woodturners as it tends to warp. However Banksia cones are often turned to make attractive ornaments.

The name Banksia is widely used in the commercial world perhaps because of its Australian connotation. Many companies incorporate Banksia into their name as do hotels, apartments, caravan parks and private homes. There are the Banksia Environmental Awards, and Banksia web domain names. Perhaps the best known cultural reference to Banksia is the "big bad Banksia men" of May Gibbs' children's book “Snugglepot and Cuddlepie”. Gibb's Banksia Men are modelled on the appearance of aged Banksia "cones” that she saw during her childhood in WA.

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Today Banksias are threatened by land clearing, too frequent burning and disease, particularly a form of root-rot or die-back caused by the Phytopthora fungus. A number of species are rare and endangered.

When Banksias are in flower they are easy to find in the bush where they can be admired and photographed. But if fresh Banksia flowers take you fancy the commercially grown ones are the only way to go – unless you grow your own of course.

Looking forward to seeing others' Banksia photos.

Cheers,

Val.
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Reply By: Member - Tony H (touring oz) - Saturday, Feb 26, 2011 at 13:03

Saturday, Feb 26, 2011 at 13:03
Nature at its best ....Thank you for sharing
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Saturday, Feb 26, 2011 at 14:34

Saturday, Feb 26, 2011 at 14:34
Thanks Tony, hope you are able to see some of our wonderful plants on your trip.

Cheers,

Val
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Reply By: Skippype - Saturday, Feb 26, 2011 at 13:51

Saturday, Feb 26, 2011 at 13:51
John & Val
What a wonderfull post. Thanks for the read.
Skip
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Saturday, Feb 26, 2011 at 14:35

Saturday, Feb 26, 2011 at 14:35
You're welcome Skip, thanks for your encouragement.

Cheers,

Val.
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Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Saturday, Feb 26, 2011 at 14:14

Saturday, Feb 26, 2011 at 14:14
Hi Val

Thank you for yet another great story. Sorry but I do not have any Banksia digital photos to add to your collection.

Keep up your great work, as it has now taken off and is appreciated by all those that read these forum posts.

Looking forward to the next story.


Cheers


Stephen



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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Saturday, Feb 26, 2011 at 14:43

Saturday, Feb 26, 2011 at 14:43
Hi Stephen,

Thanks for your positive comments. It is good fun as well as a learning curve doing these posts. Looking forward to your next post too.

Cheers,

Val.

PS We have copied all of our old colour prints simply by taking digital photos of them using the macro setting. With a bit of cropping and adjusting of brightness and contrast the result is quite acceptable, as well as being quicker and higher resolution than most scanners. The photos for all our blogs pre 2005 have been done that way.
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Reply By: Member - Barry H (WA) - Saturday, Feb 26, 2011 at 15:30

Saturday, Feb 26, 2011 at 15:30
Val,

Thanks for another great read, it is good to see the Wildflowers blog is growing rapidly.

I could only find two Banksia shots in my collection, they were taken around the Cape Riche area in the Sth East coast of WA.Image Could Not Be Found
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I look forward to the next Wildflower blog.

Regards

Barry H
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Sunday, Feb 27, 2011 at 09:32

Sunday, Feb 27, 2011 at 09:32
Hi Barry,

Thanks for posting your photos. You have a good shot of the seed "cone" there which shows really well how few flowers actually go on to set seed.

Cheers,

Val.
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Follow Up By: Member - Barry H (WA) - Sunday, Feb 27, 2011 at 15:11

Sunday, Feb 27, 2011 at 15:11
Val,

After much searching I did find one other Banksia shot, I am not sure where this one was taken it was a few years ago now.


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Barry H
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Sunday, Feb 27, 2011 at 18:33

Sunday, Feb 27, 2011 at 18:33
Thanks Barry,

The ants are going for the nectar there. I wonder why these are called firewood banksias? I always thought that banksia wood burnt rather poorly - not that its something Ive burnt a lot of.

Cheers,

Val.
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Reply By: Member - Duncan W (WA) - Saturday, Feb 26, 2011 at 18:22

Saturday, Feb 26, 2011 at 18:22
Great photos as usual Val & John. A couple of mine Image Could Not Be Found
Image Could Not Be Foundfrom Kalbarri.
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Sunday, Feb 27, 2011 at 09:36

Sunday, Feb 27, 2011 at 09:36
Hi Dunc,

Lovely photos, the colours are just amazing. When we were in Kalbarri we only saw a few Banksias, wrong time of year probably. I would love to spend a whole year there to see the whole flowering cycle - dream on I guess!

Cheers,

Val
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Reply By: Member - John Baas (WA) - Saturday, Feb 26, 2011 at 20:09

Saturday, Feb 26, 2011 at 20:09
Hi Val, another great effort thanks. Here's a few of mine.


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Cheers.
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Sunday, Feb 27, 2011 at 09:30

Sunday, Feb 27, 2011 at 09:30
Hi John,

More lovely photos, thank you. I really like the delicate colours in the Cut leaf Banksia, it was so prolific where we saw it south of Albany near the water.

Your photo of B. nutans reminded me of another of the "up-side-down" Banksias with pendulous spikes that we saw in the Fitzgerald R. NP. This one is B. lemanniana. It was rather bushy so hard to get a good shot of it.Image Could Not Be Found

Cheers,

Val
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Reply By: Member - Min (NSW) - Monday, Feb 28, 2011 at 14:24

Monday, Feb 28, 2011 at 14:24
Hi Val,

What beautiful photos from you and others. Banksias are incredible plants and not just the flowers. Here are some from our WA 2009 trip.

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I understand that B. media is related to B. preamorsa. It can be very variable in size and colour.

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Banksia candolleana is know as the Propeller Banksia and comes from the Gingin area. I have never seen it in flower but for me the magnificent follicles would be enough for me if I were lucky enough to have it in my garden.

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I photographed this plant because it was so much smaller than many of the others which were several metres high and not easy to get at. It grows from Mt Lesueur south.

Min
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Tuesday, Mar 01, 2011 at 11:52

Tuesday, Mar 01, 2011 at 11:52
Hi Min,

Three different banksias and beautiful ones too. The colours in the B. media are really amazing, and the backward curled leaves of B. grandis are unusual and quite striking.

I have yet to see a propeller banksia, so thats something else for the list.

Thank you for posting.

Cheers,

Val.
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