Vibrant colour, fine texture
Impossible to ignore …
This stately specimen is one of 170 species of banksia found in Australia; they were named for famed botanist Joseph Banks who collected them during James Cook’s 1770 voyage. The showy wildflowers and garden plants belong to the Proteaceae Family; they grow as small shrubs, or trees up to thirty metres tall, are easily recognised by their flowering spikes, and are a popular source of nectar for wildlife.
May Gibbs’ early twentieth century drawings and stories about the ‘Big Bad Banksia Men’ are familiar to readers of ‘Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’; the threatening characters are based on the dry seed ‘cones’ of the banksia, easy to imagine when you see a banksia during that part of its growing cycle. The woody sections of the banksia are popular for some forms of woodturning and souvenir manufacture because of the prominent pods that look like half-closed eyes.
The flower caught my eye during a bushwalk on South Bruny Island, in southern Tasmania, during one of those moments when it is worthwhile pausing for a picture, stopping to admire the near-perfect detail, the rush of lime-green colour, the elegant angle of the stem. Banksias showcase their blooms in a spectrum from yellow through to reddish-purple, and are popular as cut flowers for both home gardeners and the nursery industry.
Some species of banksia are prostrate, forming branches on and under the ground; many tower above your head, requiring a zoom and a prayer to capture the distant flowers.
And others wait quietly to be noticed on the side of a peaceful track …