Wednesday, September 2, 2009


I have been reading about Joseph Banks (1743-1820) in a wonderful book called "The Flower Hunters" by Mary and John Gribbin. Apart from spotting a mistake (there is no banksia species called arctinotus commonly known as the flannel flower - they got a few things muddled up there!) the chapter reminded me just how much of a debt of gratitude we owe Banks' grandfather who had the good fortune to marry an heiress! Banks was such a wealthy man he was able to indulge in his passion for all things botanical and of course famously accompanied Captain Cook on his first voyage to explore the southern ocean.
To cut a long story short we now have an entire genus named after him and I grow several species in my garden quite successfully. The first photo shows the curious possum banksia (Banksia baueri) almost smothered by its conical 'blooms' if you could call them that. They really do look like small possums crouched in the centre of the shrub! The second photo shows just how big each individual cone can be and thats not a particularly big one! The honeyeaters love banksias and there are always a couple about when I am outside.
The third photo is of a ground covering banksia called B. blechnifolia where the leaves look like those of a blechnum (fern). It spreads by producing creeping stems that end in a new cone. The picture shows last years cone on the left and a new cone emerging on the right. Banksias are such tough undemanding plants and there are about 76 species to choose from. One day I hope to grow B. coccinea in my garden. Its dramatically red cones stood out like torches when I saw them growing in the wild in the bush in Western Australia several years ago. I am onto my second plant here and so far it looks ok - mind you I thought that about the first specimen until the day it turned up its toes!

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