The Story of the Banksia Flower

Have you heard of the Banksia Men? These were the villains of May Gibb’s “Snugglepot and Cuddlepie”, a children’s book series first published in 1918. In it, the Banksia Men are drawn as the aged cones of Banksia trees with the follicles as facial features. It’s no wonder that Gibbs picked Banksia flowers as her inspiration. These huge, colorful flower spikes have tons of character. They bloom into flowers that look tubular or cone-shaped; they’re frequently a sunny yellow, red, orange, or green.

These stunning trees were first collected by a man named Joseph Banks, which is where they got their name.  He collected them in Australia during Cook’s voyage of 1770. They were first described, however, in Australia in 1782. The banksia genus is a good traveler, and, in 1977, people started importing these amazing flowers to Maui for commercial cultivation.

These days Banksia flowers are beloved in gardens as shrubs that grow tall, filling in big spaces that require hardy plants. Gardeners keep them for the mammals and birds they attract with their large quantities of nectar, too. They produce a steady supply of nectar even when other sources dry up.

Beekeepers and the Aboriginals of Australia also like the continual flow of nectar these plants produce. The nectar is so plentiful that the people of south-western Australia used to suck on the flower spikes straight, as well as making a sweet drink out of it. They would soak the flower spikes in water, and it was as good as juice.

Commercially, they make great cut flowers, particularly the Banksia coccinea and the Banksia baxterii. Some of them even make good dry flowers. Banksia flowers add variety to any bouquet, from their bright colors to their leathery texture. They come fresh from protea farms on Maui where they luxuriate in the warm days and acidic soil that bring out their best blooms.

If you are looking for a flower with a little history and a lot of character, contact us about our Banksia flowers.

Maui banksia red flower closeup

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