Banksia ericifolia

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 Banksia ericifolia subsp. var.  Heath-leaved Banksia, Heath banksia
Banksia ericifolia cult email.jpg
Habit: shrub
Height: to
Width: to
Height: 6 ft to 12 ft
Width: warning.png"" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. to warning.png"" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.
Lifespan: perennial
Origin: Australia
Bloom: early fall, mid fall, late fall, early winter, mid winter, late winter
Exposure: sun
Water: moderate, dry
Features: flowers, birds, cut flowers, drought tolerant
Hidden fields, interally pass variables to right place
Minimum Temp: °Fwarning.png"°F" is not a number.
USDA Zones: 9 to 10.5
Sunset Zones:
Flower features: orange, yellow, brown
Proteaceae > Banksia ericifolia var. , L.f.

Banksia ericifolia, the Heath-leaved Banksia (also known as the Lantern Banksia or Heath Banksia), is a species of woody shrub of the Proteaceae family native to Australia. It grows in two separate regions of Central and Northern New South Wales east of the Great Dividing Range. Well known for its orange or red autumn inflorescences, which contrast with its green fine-leaved heath-like foliage, it is a medium to large shrub that can reach 6 m (20 ft) high and wide, though is usually half that size. In exposed heathlands and coastal areas it is more often 1–2 m (3–7 ft).

Banksia ericifolia grows as a large shrub up to 6 metres (20 ft) in height, though often smaller, around 1–2 metres (3–6 ft), in exposed places such as coastal or mountain heathlands. The grey-coloured bark is smooth and fairly thin with lenticels; however it can thicken significantly with age. The linear dark green leaves are small and narrow, 9–20 mm (⅓–¾ in) long and up to 1 mm wide, generally with two small teeth at the tips. The leaves are crowded and alternately arranged on the branches.[1] New growth generally occurs in summer and is an attractive lime green colour.[2]

Flowering is in autumn, or in winter in cooler areas; the inflorescences are flower spikes 7–22 cm (3–10 in) high and 5 cm (2 in) broad or so. Each individual flower consists of a tubular perianth made up of four fused tepals, and one long wiry style. Characteristic of the taxonomic section in which it is placed, the styles are hooked rather than straight. The styles' ends are initially trapped inside the upper perianth parts, but break free at anthesis, when the flowers open.[3] The spikes are red or gold in overall colour, with styles golden, orange, orange-red or burgundy. Some unusual forms have striking red styles on a whitish perianth. Very occasionally, forms with all yellow inflorescences are seen. Though not terminal, the flower spikes are fairly prominently displayed emerging from the foliage; they arise from two- to three-year-old nodes.

Old flower spikes fade to brown and then grey with age; old flower parts soon fall, revealing numerous small dark grey to dull black finely furred follicles. Oblong in shape and 15–20 mm (½–⅔ in) in diameter, the follicles are ridged on each valve and remain closed until burnt by fire.[1] Banksia ericifolia responds to fire by seeding, the parent plant being killed. As plants take several years to flower in the wild, it is very sensitive to too-frequent burns and has been eliminated in some areas where this occurs. With time and the production of more cones with seed-containing follicles, however, plants can store up to 16,500 seeds at eight years of age.[4] Some plants produce multiple flower spikes, possibly of varying sizes, from a single point of origin.[5][6]


Banksia ericifolia inflorescences attract a variety of birds to the garden.[7] Tough enough to be used as a street plant in parts of Sydney, B. ericifolia is a fairly easy plant to grow in the conditions it likes, namely a sandy, well drained soil and a sunny aspect. It requires extra water over dryer periods until established, which may take up to two years, as it comes from an area with rainfall in predominantly warmer months. It is resistant to Phytophthora cinnamomi dieback, like most eastern banksias[8] As it grows naturally on acid soils, Banksia ericifolia is particularly sensitive to iron deficiency. Known as chlorosis, this problem manifests as yellowing of new leaves with preservation of green veins; it can occur on plants grown in soils of high pH. This can happen especially where soil contains quantities of cement, either as landfill or building foundations, and can be treated with iron chelate or sulfate.[9]

Flowering may take some years from seed; a minimum of four years is average. Buying an advanced plant may hasten this process, as will getting a cutting-grown plant. Banksia ericifolia can be propagated easily by seed, and is one of the (relatively) easier banksias to propagate by cutting.[10] Named cultivars are by necessity propagated by cuttings as this ensures that the plant produced bears the same attributes as the original plant.

Regular pruning is important to give the plant an attractive habit and prevent it from becoming leggy. Hard-pruning below green growth is not advisable with this banksia; since it lacks a lignotuber, it does not have dormant buds below the bark that respond to pruning or fire and therefore is unable to sprout from old wood as readily as commonly cultivated lignotuberous species, such as B. spinulosa and B. robur.[11]


Pests and diseases



Orange flowers & long leaves, Australian National Botanic Gardens

Two geographically distinct forms are recognised:

Banksia ericifolia subsp. ericifolia
The nominate race is found in the Sydney basin, south to the Illawarra and north to Collaroy, as well as the Blue Mountains. The seedling leaves have 2–6 teeth on each margin, while the perianths are 19–22 mm (¾ in) long and pistils are 30–35 mm (1¼ in) long. Salkin noted that this subspecies often grew in association with Banksia spinulosa var. cunninghamii and that there were plants with longer leaves some 20–25 mm (¾–1 in) long with entire, curled margins. He gave them the name "longifolia" and suspected these may have been hybrids.[12]
Banksia ericifolia subsp. macrantha
The northern race is found on the New South Wales north coast, from Crowdy Head northwards to the Queensland border. Described as a distinct subspecies in 1996 by Alex George from material he collected at Byron Bay in 1975, it is distinguished by finer foliage, more crowded leaves and larger flowers, with the perianths 26–28 mm (1 in) long and pistils 46–48 mm (1¾ in) long. The seedling leaves have one, or occasionally two teeth on each margin. Salkin observed that the inflorescences tended to be terminal rather than axial,[12] and others have noted them to be sometimes taller than the nominate subspecies. Crowdy Bay, in particular, hosts specimens with spikes up to 26 cm (10 in) in height.[2]


B. ericifolia 'Little Eric', showing compact habit.
Cultivar in Kenthurst, NSW

For many years the horticulture industry focussed on registered selections of Banksia spinulosa, but since the late 1990s more and more cultivars of Banksia ericifolia have come on the market, including colour variants and dwarf forms. The latter are particularly attractive as the original plant may reach 6 metres in height, and the new cultivars help enthusiasts choose a plant that is right for their conditions and tastes.[13] Banksia ericifolia is also grown for the cut flower industry in Australia, though not to the degree that the western Australian species such as B. coccinea and B. menziesii are.[14]

There are a number of commercial varieties available from Australian retail nurseries; however none have yet been registered under plant breeders' rights legislation, and only one ('Limelight') is registered with the Australian Cultivar Registration Authority. The lack of official names has led to some varieties bearing several different names.

  • Banksia ericifolia 'Bronzed Aussie' is a white-budded terminal-flowering form to 2 m with bronzed foliage; the inflorescences have honey-coloured pistils. It has been propagated by Victorian nurseryman Rod Parsons of Carawah Nursery in Hoddles Creek. A new release in 2003, its provenance is unknown; seed had been given to Rod's father by an SGAP member many years ago.[13]
  • Banksia ericifolia 'Golden Girl' is a golden yellow-flowered form which grows to 1.5–1.8 m (5–6 ft) in height with blue-grey foliage. It has hidden wide fat flowers to 8 cm high and has been propagated by Rod Parsons of Carawah Nursery. Released in 2003, its provenance is unknown (seed donated to Rod's father by an SGAP member many years ago.)[13]
  • Banksia ericifolia 'Kanangra Gold', propagated by Kuranga Nursery in Melbourne, is a gold flowered form to 4 m (13 ft) from the Kanangra-Boyd region of the Blue Mountains. It is bushy and flowers are much paler than the regular orange or red forms.[13]
  • Banksia ericifolia 'Limelight', registered with Australian Cultivar Registration Authority (ACRA) in 1987, is a large plant to 5 m (16 ft) with bright lime green foliage and orange blossoms. It is seldom seen due to the current focus on smaller forms for smaller gardens.[11][13]
B. ericifolia 'White Candles'
Cultivar in Sydney, NSW
  • Banksia ericifolia 'Little Eric' is a dwarf form reaching 1 or 2 m (3–6 ft); the inflorescences have maroon styles and whitish perianth. It is propagated by Richard Anderson of Merricks Nursery on the Mornington Peninsula southeast of Melbourne, the original having arisen as a chance garden seedling.[13]
  • Banksia ericifolia 'Purple Pygmy', also called B. 'Port Wine', is a dwarf form propagated by Kuranga Nursery that grows to 1 m (3 ft) with purplish foliage with claret flowers. It only flowers rarely and is difficult to propagate. Also, due to low demand it is only propagated in low numbers.[15][16]
  • Banksia ericifolia 'Red Rover' is a dwarf cultivar reaching 1.8 m (6 ft) with a more open habit than other forms of similar size. This form has lime green foliage and scarlet-red flowers and was propagated by Rod Parsons of Carawah Nursery from a garden selection and released in 2004.[13]
  • Banksia ericifolia 'St Pauls' is a dwarf form that grows to 2 m (6 ft) with conspicuous red inflorescences which has been available from time to time from Cranebrook Nursery in Sydney's western suburbs. It was originally propagated from a plant cultivated at St Pauls' secondary school (a local high school).[13]
  • Banksia ericifolia 'White candles/Christmas Candles', also known as B. ericifolia 'Ruby Clusters', originated from a plant growing in the Sutherland Shire in Sydney's south. It has an unusual red style/white body colour combination somewhat reminiscent of B. coccinea. The buds are white and contrast with the red styles that emerge through them. It is an open shrub to 3–4 m (9–13 ft).[13]
  • Banksia ericifolia macrantha 'Creamed Honey', so called because its flowers are the colour of creamed honey, is a pale flowered variant originally found at Crowdy Head on the New South Wales north coast. Propagated by Kuranga nursery, it grows to 4 or 5 m (12–16 ft) with a more open habit. It is notable in that it is the only cultivar of the northern subspecies of Banksia ericifolia currently available.



  1. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Harden02
  2. 2.0 2.1 Template:The Banksia Atlas
  3. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named George_1999
  4. Honig MA, Cowling RM, Richardson DM (1992). (abstract) "The invasive potential of Australian banksias in South African fynbos: A comparison of the reproductive potential of Banksia ericifolia and Leucadendron laureolum". Australian journal of ecology 17 (3): 305–314. doi:10.1111/j.1442-9993.1992.tb00812.x. (abstract). Retrieved 2007-06-28. 
  5. Johnson, S (1992). "Multiple Flower Heads". Banksia Study Report 9: 58. ISSN 0728-2893. 
  6. Blake, T (1988). "Multiple Heads". Banksia Study Report 8: 2. ISSN 0728-2893. 
  7. Dengate, J (2000). Attracting Birds to Your Garden. Sydney: New Holland Press. p. 20. ISBN 1-86436-411-4. 
  8. McCredie, T.A.; K.W. Dixon and K. Sivasithamparam (1985). "Variability in the resistance of Banksia L.f. species to Phytophthora cinnamomi Rands". Australian Journal of Botany 3 (6): 629–637. doi:10.1071/BT9850629. 
  9. Eliot RW, Jones DL, Blake T (1985). Encyclopaedia of Australian Plants Suitable for Cultivation: Vol. 2. Port Melbourne: Lothian Press. p. 292. ISBN 0-85091-143-5. 
  10. Maclean, R (1995). "Propagation of Banksias". Banksia Study Report 10: 6–16. ISSN 0728-2893. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Template:The Banksia Book
  12. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Salkin_1979
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 13.7 13.8 Liber C (2004). "Update on Eastern Cultivars" (PDF). Banksia Study Group Newsletter ([ASGAP]) 5 (1): 3–5. ISSN 1444-285X. Retrieved 2007-06-23. 
  14. Sedgley M (1998). "The New Rural Industries: A handbook for Farmers and Investors". Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation. Archived from the original on June 13, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-06-28.
  15. Eliot RW, Jones DL, Blake T (1995). Encyclopaedia of Australian Plants Suitable for Cultivation: Supplement No. 1. Port Melbourne: Lothian Press. pp. B–51. ISBN 0-85091-659-3. 
  16. Blake, T (1988). "Banksia Cultivars". Banksia Study Report 7: 17–18. ISSN 0728-2893. 

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