There are about 80 species of banksia, which is a member of the Protea family, with perhaps as many as 20 species are used as cut flowers in Australia. The actual number is not sure as in the past many were bush picked and this still continues to a small extent today. As a result some short-stemmed species with distinctive flowers that are not commercially grown can appear on the market during spring. Banksias have distinctive cone-shaped inflorescences that are made up of hundreds of tiny flowers that open from the base, giving them a fluffy appearance.
Most banksia flowers are yellow, but they are also found in red (eg B. coccinea), green (B. baxteri), and creamy orange (B. hookeriana). They are not scented. Banksias are very popular cut flowers in Australia and overseas, due to their distinctive shape and lone vase life. Many can also be dried successfully. Banksia cones are also used in floristry in Australia because of their unusual shape and texture – they remind many Australians of the bad Banksia Men from the much-loved ‘Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’ children’s stories published by May Gibbs last century.
Banksias are grown outside in field plantations, bush picking is now actively discouraged. Most are grown in WA, SA, QLD and NSW.
Types: Scarlet banksia, golden banksia, rickrack banksia, red banksia, Ashby’s banksia, Hooker’s banksia.
What to look for
- Inflorescences with @ the bottom 1/3 of flowers open and fluffy;
- Clear colour; grey flowers are old;
- Avoid wet flowers, especially in the orange-coloured forms, as wet flowers can develop black streaks.
- Keep cool whenever possible.
- Strip leaves from the lower half of each stem.
- Recut at least 2 cm off each stem and place in cold water immediately.
- Never bash or split stems.
- A preservative is recommended, but not essential.
- Replace vase water with fresh preservative every day as Banksias are thirsty flowers.
- Never mist these flowers as this could cause black marks to appear.
Interesting Facts about this Flower
Banksia was named after Joseph Banks, who first collected the plant in Australia during Cook’s voyage of 1770. Banks collected so many plants that 110 new genera and 1300 new species were later named. Some of Banks’ original specimens, including the Banksias are included in the National Herbarium, part of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. While these precious specimens are not on public display, the Herbarium does occasionally display them during open days.
Botanical Name: Banksia coccinea (red), B. prionotes (yellow),B.speciosa (lime), B. menziesii (yellow-scarlet),B. baxteri (pale green), B. ashbeyi (yellow-orange)
Common Names: Ashby
Stem Length: 30 to 80 cm
Country of Origin: Australia
Available Colours: Green, Orange, Red, Yellow