Banksia by Any Other Name

Sydney & Science

Banksia is a genus of shrub and tree that, with the exception of one species, grows only in Australia.

 

What first caught my eye about this plant is its flower spike. This inflorescence comprises a woody center surrounded by a cone of small, tightly-packed flowers that number from the hundreds to thousands. One species, Banksia grandis, has even been recorded as having 6,000 flowers in one spike! In some cases, the flowers will fruit in hard and woody cones called follicles, which resemble barnacles attached to the hull of a ship. These fruits release their seeds at varying times or, sometimes, not at all, and some will only release them after they’ve been burnt in a bushfire. As a result some species are able to withstand fire very well, which explains why the cones can carry a flame a great distance, a property put to frequent use by Aborigines.

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