Scientific name: Banksia praemorsa
Plant type: Medium sized shrub
Environment: Full sun, well-drained soil. Drought tolerant
Uses: Specimen plant, screening plant
Australia – 59C, 64E, 75B
Cut leaf banksia (Banksia praemorsa) is a medium sized shrub native to a small area on the southern coast of Western Australia.
In its native range the cut leaf banksia is common, found in coastal sand dunes in kwongan habitat. Kwongan is an ecosystem found exclusively in southwestern Australia defined by its high level of species diversity and species unique to the region. It has nutrient poor, sandy soils and low growing, fire adapted plants. This habitat once covered almost thirty percent of southwestern Australia, but much of it has been lost over the years due to a number of factors including land clearing, urban development, and disease.
The cut leaf banksia was introduced into cultivation at Kew Gardens in the 1790s from seed collected by Archibald Menzies, a Scottish botanist, in Australia. Today it is an uncommon garden feature but thrives in full sun and well drained soil. Banksia praemorsa can grow to heights of approximately 12 ft. The species’ most notable feature is its leathery leaves, with their truncated tip, a characteristic that is reflected in both the common name and specific epithet. The specific epithet praemorsa is derived from the Latin praemorsus meaning bitten off, in reference to the shape of the ends of the leaves.
The inflorescence of Banksia praemorsa is known as a spike and is made up of many individual flowers. These flowers will range from a deep red to a bright yellow with a protruding cream-colored stigma, a part of the female reproductive organs of the flower. The fully yellow form is rarely seen in cultivation.
Like many plant species in the kwongan ecosystem, Banksia praemorsa has adapted to wildfires and seeds will typically stay enclosed within their cone until the plant burns. After which the seeds will be dispersed and eventually regenerate.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS: Text and Photos by Victoria Stewart