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Banksia is a genus within the Proteaceae family of plants. Other genera in this family include Grevillea, Conospermum, Hakea, Lambertia, Persoonia and Telopea (which includes the spectacular waratah).
Banksias range from low growing shrubs to trees up to 25m. they are easily recognised by their large flower spikes and woody follicles. Each of these flower spikes contains hundreds of tiny flowers tightly packed together in pairs. The flowers have four perianth segments and no calx. There are four stamen, each one attached to a separate perianth segment. There is a single style with a sticky disc around the stigma at its tip. The colour of the flower spikes, usually ranging from yellow to red, is determined by the colour of the perianth parts and the style.
Pollination of the flowers is helped by the abundance of nectar produced which attracts nectar seeking insects, birds and mammals. Banksias are an important food source for mammals such as the Sugar Glider, Feathertail Glider, Brown Antechinus and the Eastern Pygmy Possum (all of which can be found in Katandra) as the flowers in many species appear in Autumn and Winter when many other food sources are scarce.
After fertilisation the ovary develops into a woody fruit called a follicle. Despite the large number of flowers on each spike, only a few of them develop fruit. Each follicle has two valves which protect two small winged seeds. These follicles remain stored unopened on the tree, attached to the woody interior of the flower spike long after the flowers die off. Only when completely dried out will the follicles open to release the seeds eg if the tree dies or they are stimulated by fire.These woody withered banksia spikes were brought to life as the evil “Banksia Men” by May Gibbs in her classic tales of “Snugglepot and Cuddlepie”. While they may resemble cones, they are not true “cones” as cones only appear on conifer plants.
(Photo Left) An old withered “Banksia Man” with some follicles opened having released
the seeds stored inside
There are over 170 species of Banksia. All, except one, are endemic to Australia with those found growing in western Australia different to those found in the east.
Katandra is home to seven Banksia species;
Banksia ericifolia (Heath-leaved Banksia)
Banksia integrifolia (Coastal Banksia)
Banksia marginata (Silver Banksia)
Banksia oblongifolia (Fern-leaved Banksia)
Banksia serrata (Old Man Banksia)
Banksia spinulosa (Hair Pin Banksia)
Source - Katandra Bushland News (Winter 2021 Edition)