Plant of the Month — December 2006
Banksia ilicifolia R.Br. — Holly-leaved Banksia
Banksia ilicifolia is our Christmas selection for 2006. With its traditional European Christmas colours of red, white and green and its holly-shaped leaves, it is an ideal choice for the festive season, while still being intrinsically Australian. It is also a home-grown species, endemic to the South West region of Western Australia. Banksia ilicifolia provides its Christmas colours from March to December, so is also appropriate for Christmas in July, celebrated in Western Australia’s winter by nostalgic anglophiles.
This species was named by Robert Brown (1773–1858) when he collected the plant on his voyage with Matthew Flinders on the Investigator in 1801. Brown was librarian to Banks and the Linnean Society of London and keeper of botany at the British Museum. The species name, ilicifolia meaning ‘holly-leaved’, is derived from the genus Ilex (holly) + the Latin folium meaning ‘leaf’.
Banksia ilicifolia is a bird-attracting shrub or small tree growing from 0.7m to 10m and is ideal for small or large gardens (it may be pruned lightly). It grows along the coast of Western Australia from Dongara in the north to Albany on the south coast. Including this Banksia in a garden ensures bird life, insect life and Christmas colours that may be enjoyed almost all year.
The genus Banksia was named for the botanist Sir Joseph Banks who accompanied Cook on his first voyage to Australia by Carl Linnaeus the younger. His father, also Carl Linnaeus, was the famous Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist who founded modern plant systematics and nomenclature.
Photo: T. Tapper
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