Botanical Name: Banksia integrifolia
Species: B. integrifolia
*B. integrifolia subsp. integrifolia
*B. integrifolia subsp. compar
*B. integrifolia subsp. monticola
Common Names: Coast banksia,Coastal banksia, Honeysuckle, White banksia, White bottlebrush and White honeysuckle and some older sources refer to it as Honeysuckle oak
Habitat: Banksia integrifolia is native to Australia – New South Wales, S. Queensland, Victoria.It grows on basalt and red sand areas, usually by the coast but also found at higher elevations where it can be very gnarled and stunted.
Banksia integrifolia is a highly variable species. It is most often encountered as a tree up to 25 metres (80 ft) in height, but in sheltered locations it can reach 35 metres (110 ft). In more exposed areas it may grow as a small, gnarled tree, reaching to no more than about 5 metres (15 ft), and in highly exposed positions, such as on exposed coastal headlands, it may even be reduced to a small shrub.
It usually has a single stout trunk, which is often twisted and gnarled, with the rough grey bark characteristic of Banksia. The leaves are dark green with a white underside, and occur in whorls of three to five. Adult leaves have entire margins; George specifies their dimensions as 4 to 20 centimetres (2–8 in) long and 6 to 35 millimetres (0.2–1.4 in) wide, but The Banksia Atlas warns that “Atlas contributors found great variability in these measurements with specimens often falling outside the varietal limits specified by George (1981) or being intermediate between two varieties.” Juvenile leaves have dentate margins with a few short teeth, and are generally larger than adult leaves.
Flowers occur in Banksia’s characteristic “flower spike”, an inflorescence made up of several hundred flowers densely packed in a spiral around a woody axis. This is roughly cylindrical, 10 to 12 centimetres (4–5 in) high and five centimetres (2 in) wide. Flowers are usually pale yellow to yellow, but may be greenish or pinkish in bud. Each individual flower consists of a tubular perianth made up of four united tepals, and one long wiry style. Characteristic of the taxonomic section in which it is placed, the styles are straight rather than hooked. The style ends are initially trapped inside the upper perianth parts, but break free at anthesis. This process starts with the flowers at the bottom of the inflorescence, sweeping up the spike at an unusually high rate of between 96 and 390 flowers per 24 hours.
The flower spikes are not as prominent as in some other Banksia species, as they arise from two- to three-year-old nodes nested within the foliage. After flowering, old flower parts wither and fall away over a period of several months, revealing the “cone”, a woody axis embedded with many small follicles. The follicles are initially greenish and downy, but gradually fade to dark grey. Each follicle contains one or sometimes two seeds, separated by a thin wooden separator. The seed itself is black, 6 to 10 millimetres (0.2–0.4 in) long with a feathery black ‘wing’ 10 to 20 millimetres (0.4–0.8 in) long.
Succeeds in most soils. Requires a lime-free soil. Thrives in acid sandy loams. Prefers a pH between 6.3 and 6.5. If this species is to be successfully cultivated, the soil should be low in nutrients, especially in nitrates and phosphates. Quite resistant to wind and salt spray, it grows well by the coast. Plants growing in exposed positions have entire leaves whilst those in sheltered positions have serrated leaves. Plants require greenhouse protection in most parts of Britain but they succeed outdoors on a sheltered wall in the mildest areas of the country. Plants in Australian gardens tolerate temperatures down to at least -7°c, but this cannot be translated directly to British gardens due to our cooler summers and longer colder and wetter winters. A polymorphic species, there are many named varieties selected for their ornamental value. A good bee plant.
The flowers are rich in nectar and this is sometimes harvested as a food. It is best harvested in the morning before birds and evaporation deplete the yields. The flowers can be sucked or soaked in water in order to obtain the nectar.
The wood of Banksia integrifolia is pink to red, with inconspicuous rings and conspicuous rays. It is spongy and porous, with a density of around 530 kilograms per cubic metre (33 lb/ft3). It is considered highly decorative, but it warps badly on drying, has poor load-bearing qualities, and is susceptible to termite attack; it is therefore unsuitable for most construction purposes. It is sometimes used for cabinet panelling and in ornamental turnery, and natural bends were once sought after for making boat knees. It is a useful firewood.
Banksia integrifolia produces a dark amber-coloured honey of middling quality and therefore low commercial value. Despite this, the species is highly valued by beekeepers because it produces large amounts of pollen and nectar during autumn and winter, thus helping support hives at a time when little else is flowering.
Historically, indigenous Australians obtained nectar from B. integrifolia by stroking the flower spikes then licking their hands, or by steeping flower spikes in a coolamon overnight. They also used the flower spikes as hairbrushes. Early settlers used the nectar as a syrup for sore throats and colds; and bushmen would impregnate barren “cones” with fat to make a slow-burning candle.
More recently, Banksia integrifolia has been used in the art of bonsai. Its rangy habit and long internodes are challenging to overcome, but the leaves do reduce with pruning, and unlike the gnarlier B. serrata (saw banksia) its trunk can become textured with age.
It is used as a floral emblem by two local government areas of Queensland: the City of Redcliffe and the City of Logan. In 2000 it was featured on an Australian postage stamp.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only.