Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata)

Banksia flower 'cone' or 'inflorescence'.
Banksia flower ‘cone’ or ‘inflorescence’.

Common name: Silver Banksia

Taxonomic name: Banksia marginata

Family: Proteaceae

Habitat: Woodlands

Form: Small tree

Flowering Time: Late Summer to Winter

Kaurna name:   Pitpauwe

Description and uses:

Banksias are untidy small trees in the Protea Family and share that family’s spectacular flowers. They have characteristic flower spikes (inflorescences) which dry to become cones that hold seeds. Banksias are well adapted to Australian conditions and need fire to release the seeds and for them to germinate. The seeds have wings and burst out of the cone through the pressure of expanding steam, produced when the cone is burned.

The inflorescences are soaked in water to extract the nectar and make a sweet drink (called ‘Kundanye‘). This can then be mixed with  wattle gum in order to make a sweet lolly. You can even lick the nectar off of the flowers.

Dried cones were an inspiration for characters in a favourite Australian story.
Dried cones were an inspiration for characters in a favourite Australian story.

The wood is  used to make needles and the dried flowers and cones used to strain water for drinking. Dried Banksia cones make interesting sculptures as the open seed cases make little faces which were the inspiration for characters in a famous Australian series of stories.

Leaves have a silver-green underside, distinct mid-rib and brown hairs.

If you are in doubt about identifying Silver Banksia by its flowers, take a look at the leaves. They are a dull green on top and silvery green below. There is a definite mid-rib and distinct brown hairs.