Bull banksia Banksia grandis

    The scientific name refers to its sizeable leaves, which can grow up to 45cm long. The leaves are popular in floristry, and the enormous woody cones are used in wood turning. Aboriginal people would use smouldering cones as torches for both light and warmth.

    Flower: 40cm long; 9cm wide

    Photo Credit: Anne Hayes

    Teasel banksia Banksia pulchella

    Taking its scientific name from the Latin word “pulchellus”, meaning pretty, the teasel banksia is unusual for its yellow flowers and green, knobbly fruiting cone. Its long flowering season — from autumn through to spring — is a treat for nectar-loving honeyeaters and honey possums.

    Flower: 2.5cm long; 5cm wide

    Photo Credit: Anne Hayes

    Scarlet banksia Banksia coccinea

    Also known as the waratah banksia, this is one of the brightest stars in the Banksia genus. The vibrant, red flower is also popular in floristry, with commercial crops grown in South Africa, Canada, the USA, New Zealand and Israel.

    Flower: 6cm long; 10cm wide

    Photo Credit: Anne Hayes

    Acorn banksia Banksia prionotes

    It’s not hard to see how this banksia earned its common name: the sight of a half-open flower spike would be enough to send a squirrel nuts. It’s known as a ‘keystone mutualist’ in the Avon Wheatbelt, WA, as it’s vital to the survival of a number of animals and plants there.

    Flower: 15cm long; 8cm wide

    Photo Credit: Anne Hayes

    BLUE BANKSIA Banksia plagiocarpa

    Although initially collected in the 1860s, the blue banksia remained incognito until its rediscovery on Hinchinbrook Island, Queensland, in 1981. It boasts a spectrum of colours: blue-grey buds that open to pale yellow; and new foliage that matures to rusty brown then green.

    Flower: 14cm long; 6cm wide

    Photo Credit: Anne Hayes

    FIREWOOD BANKSIA Banksia menziesii

    The wine-red firewood banksia is a favourite in Australian native bouquets, although it produces flowers in a range of colours. It burns quickly and easily, hence its name.

    Flower: 12cm long; 8cm wide

    Photo Credit: Anne Hayes

    Matchstick banksia Banksia cuneata

    This is one of only three banksia species that belong to the sub-genus Isostylis, which boasts flowers in dome shapes rather than spheres or cylindrical spikes. From September to December, the shrubs feature pink and cream blossoms.

    Flower: 2.5cm long; 4cm wide

    Photo Credit: Anne Hayes

An illustrated guide to Australia’s banksias

By AG STAFF | August 14, 2017

Propellers and porcupines, hairpins and tennis balls — the common names for some of Australia’s 78 species of banksia speak volumes about their distinctiveness and diversity. All but one — the tropical banksia — are found only in Australia. South-western WA hogs most of the limelight with more than 80 per cent of species. What appears to be one large, showy flower is actually a dense cluster of up to several thousand individual blossoms. Their nectar once provided a sweet treat for Aboriginal people, who sucked the flower spike or soaked it in water to make a drink. After flowering, the spike develops into a woody cone with tightly closed follicles, each containing one or two ‘winged’ seeds.