Belonging to the very unusual and fabulous Proteaceae plant family, Banksia is a genus made up of about 170 different species, all native to Australia as wildflowers.
While the image of a wildflower you might have in mind is probably a herbaceous perennial, banksias are shrubs or trees.
Banksia At A Glance
Banksias can be found in forested areas, shrub land, rainforests, and dry areas of Australia, but not including the desert parts.
You can easily recognize these plants when they’re in flower, as they produce unique, cone-shaped flower spikes.
Each flower head is a composite, that is to say that they are made up of tiny, individual florets which look like a single, large flower from afar.
Most of the flowers in this genus are full to the brim with nectar, and have a perfume similar to honeysuckle.
This trait makes them popular with a range of wildlife, including possums, bees, rats, and invertebrates.
Aboriginal people have used banksia flowers to make a honey-based drink, and the genus of plants has been around for at least 50 million years.
Some banksia species are threatened, their numbers reduced because of disease, burning, and land clearing.
What Is Banksia Named After?
The genus name honors Sir Joseph Banks, the famous explorer, who was one of the first to describe these plants.
Banksia plants are also referred to as the Australian honeysuckle, thanks to the great deal of nectar in the flowers, as well as the fragrance they give off.
The Symbolism Of Banksia Flowers
Banksia flowers symbolize a fresh start, renewal, and rebirth.
This symbolism is probably tied to the way that these plants can regenerate after fierce wildfires, thanks to the woody base of the plants, containing vital water and nutrients which the plant can use to regrow its top growth after a bushfire.
This appendage is called a lignotuber.
Banksia plants feature very robust, dense wood, which is often put to use in wood turning, where the wood is rotated on a lathe and then shaped.
The flowers are perfect for cutting gardens, not only for their unusual forms and bright colors, but also because they are very long-lived, even when separated from the plant.
Banksia flowers are available in many different shades, most frequently yellow, but can include red, pink, purple, or red.
Banksia grandis is known for having a record number of florets on a single flower head, numbering at about 6000 individual flowers!
Growing Requirements For Banksia
While these lovely plants can tolerate bush fires without a problem, one thing that they cannot stand much of is freezing temperatures, and as a result, Banksia plants are considered hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11.
While banksia shrubs and trees will survive in different soil types if the drainage is sufficient, they do best in sandy soil, as that’s what they are used to.
For best results, give them soil which has a pH between 5.5 and 7.0, in either full sunlight or partial shade.