One of the most recognizable floral symbols of Australia is the Banksia tree. This fascinating plant is one of a few that thrive in the varying climates of our coastal regions. There are 170 species of the Banksia, ranging in size from small woody shrubs to tall trees up to 30 m in height. The leaves are usually hard and leather like that vary in shape from species to species, with all but a few having serrated edges.
With beautifully intricate cone-shaped flowers that vary in colours from yellow, red, bronze, pink and even purple. These uniquely shaped flowers are not only beautiful but are also a rich source of nectar, making them an important food source in the bush.
Banksia spiritual and medicinal uses
The indigenous people found the Banksia tree a very sweet survival treat, with the flowers they would either suck the nectar from it directly or soak it in the bark or a wooden bowl with some water creating a very naturally very sweet energy drink. The Aborigines also found that the Silver Banksia’s dried flowers could be used to strain drinking water and that Banksia wood could make tools for weaving mats and baskets.
This amazing Australian is also said to have the most efficient root system in nature it can extract nutrients from some of the worst soil conditions. It is said to absorb 12 times more prosperous than most plants. Another unique feature of the Banksia plant is that it has naturally adapted to regular bushfires. Some species have a thick layer of bark surrounding the plant allowing it to be somewhat fire resistant and re-shoot soon after the threat has passed. Whilst others are stimulated to drop and open their seed pods, re-germinating the bush with new life. These fascinating plants have coloured our landscape and sweetened the air, for longer than we have been here to see them. Maybe we should all take some time to smell the Banksia’s. ©Ange Marxsen