Banksia spinulosa

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 Banksia spinulosa subsp. var.  Hairpin Banksia
Banksia spinulosa dark styles Georges River NP email.jpg
Habit: shrub
Height: to
Width: to
3ft 5ft
Height: warning.png"" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. to 3 ft
Width: warning.png"" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. to 5 ft
Lifespan: perennial
Origin: E Australia
Bloom: early fall, mid fall, late fall, early winter, mid winter, late winter
Exposure: sun, part-sun
Water: moderate, dry
Features: flowers, birds, cut flowers
Hidden fields, interally pass variables to right place
Minimum Temp: °Fwarning.png"°F" is not a number.
USDA Zones: 9 to 11.5
Sunset Zones:
Flower features: orange, yellow
Proteaceae > Banksia spinulosa var. ,

The Hairpin Banksia (Banksia spinulosa) is a species of woody shrub, of the genus Banksia in the Proteaceae family, native to eastern Australia. Widely distributed, it is found as an understorey plant in open dry forest or heathland from Victoria to northern Queensland, generally on sandstone though sometimes also clay soils. It generally grows as a small shrub to 2 m ft 0 in height, though can be a straggly tree to 6 m ft 0. It has long narrow leaves with inflorescences which can vary considerably in coloration; while the spikes are gold or less commonly yellowish, the emergent styles may be a wide range of colours – from black, purple, red, orange or yellow.

Banksia spinulosa var. spinulosa was introduced into cultivation in the United Kingdom in 1788 by Joseph Banks who supplied seed to Kew, Cambridge Botanic Gardens and Woburn Abbey among others; var. collina followed in 1800 and var. cunninghamii in 1822.[1] It has proven a highly ornamental and bird-attracting plant in cultivation.[2]Southern and montane provenance forms are frost hardy.[2] In general, all forms prefer sandy, well-drained soils with sunny aspect, though some local forms hailing from Wianamatta shales may tolerate heavier soils. It is resistant to dieback, like most eastern banksias.[3] As it grows naturally on acid soils, Banksia spinulosa is particularly sensitive to iron deficiency. Known as chlorosis, it manifests as yellowing of new leaves with preservation of green veins, and occurs when the plant is grown in soils of higher pH. This can also happen where soil contains quantities of cement, either as landfill or building foundations, and can be treated with iron chelate or sulfate.[4]

Regular pruning is important to give the plant an attractive habit and prevent it from becoming leggy. As most cultivated forms of this species have a lignotuber, dormant buds exist below the bark that respond to pruning or fire, and hard-pruning is possible almost to ground level as a plant can readily sprout from old wood.[5] This is not the case for var. cunninghamii which should not be pruned below foliage.[6] Flowering may take up to eight years from germination; buying an advanced plant may hasten this process, as will getting a cutting-grown plant. Banksia spinulosa can be propagated easily by seed, and is one of the (relatively) easier banksias to propagate by cutting.[7] Named cultivars are by necessity propagated by cuttings as this ensures that the plant produced bears the same attributes as the original plant.[8]

Both B. s. var. collina and var. spinulosa are commonly seen in nurseries; given that the varieties can hybridise, attempting to find a local provenance form from a local community nursery, Bushcare or Australian Plants Society group is preferable environmentally if they are intended for planting in gardens near bushland where native populations occur. There are some dwarf forms available for the city gardener – 'Stumpy Gold' is a form of variety collina originally from the Central Coast, while 'Birthday Candles', 'Coastal Cushion' and 'Golden Cascade' are forms of variety spinulosa from the South Coast of New South Wales.[9]



Pests and diseases


var. spinulosa, Nowra
leaves with serrations near apex only

Four varieties are currently recognised:

B. spinulosa var. spinulosa
The nominate race is an autonym, a name that was automatically created for the original material of the species as the other subspecies were described. The original Hairpin Banksia, this plant is coastal in Queensland, seen in such places as Walsh's Pyramid (near Cairns), Byfield National Park and the Blackdown Tableland,[10] then again in New South Wales south of the Hawkesbury River, just north of Sydney, down the New South Wales South Coast and into Victoria.[11] Northwards of the Hawkesbury River on Sydney's northern outskirts there is a gradation between this and B. spinulosa var. collina.[12] It commonly has black, maroon or claret styles on gold spikes but all-gold inflorescences are seen, and leaves are generally narrower than other varieties at 1–2 mm in width and have several serrations toward the apex only.[13]
B. spinulosa var. collina
Known as the Hill Banksia, it was first published as Banksia collina by Robert Brown in 1810, and retained species rank until 1981, when George demoted it to a variety of B. spinulosa.[14][15] It differs from B. spinulosa var. spinulosa in having broader leaves 3–8 mm in width that have serrate margins. The leaf undersides have more prominent venation.[13] Its flower spikes are usually gold, or sometimes gold with red styles, especially in New South Wales. It is found in inland gorges and tablelands such as Carnarvon Gorge, Expedition National Park, Isla Gorge and Dicks Tableland in a remote part of Eungella National Park, in Central Queensland but coastal on the New South Wales Central- and north coast.[11][16]
B. cunninghamii, Lyrebird Dell walk, Leura, Blue Mountains
B. spinulosa var. cunninghamii
This variety was published as B. cunninghamii in 1827 in honour of the botanist Allan Cunningham,[17][18] and demoted to a variety of B. spinulosa in 1981. The demotion has not been universally accepted however: in New South Wales it is still given species rank, and B. spinulosa var. neoanglica is considered a subspecies of it.[13][19] George notes that at locations where both var. spinulosa and var. cunninghamii coexist, such as Fitzroy Falls in Lawson, no intermediate forms occur.[14] This plant is a fast-growing nonlignotuberous shrub or small tree to 6 metres (20 ft) in height, occurring in the Great Dividing Range from southeast Queensland to southern New South Wales and also in Victoria. The juvenile leaves are highly serrated, new branchlets are hairy and leaf undersides are pale brown rather than white as in the two previous varieties. Inflorescences are gold with black styles, though an all-yellow form from Victoria is known.[20] The linear to oblanceolate adult leaves are 2–10 cm (1–4 in) long by 2–7 mm wide;[6] those from Victoria having markedly longer juvenile leaves.[21]
B. spinulosa var. neoanglica
Known as the New England Banksia, it was published by Alex George in 1988,[22] based on a specimen collected by him in 1986. In New South Wales it is considered an unnamed subspecies of Banksia cunninghamii.[23] This plant is found in the New England Region of far northern New South Wales and Southeastern Queensland. It is a short lignotuberous shrub to 1 m ft 0 in height. Inflorescences are gold with black styles. It has hairy new branchlets and pale brown leaf undersides.[20]

Some doubt exists as to whether the current classification accurately represents relationships within the Banksia spinulosa complex. B. spinulosa var. collina is a form of inland gorges and tablelands in central Queensland, but is a coastal plant on the New South Wales central and north coast. B. spinulosa var. spinulosa, on the other hand, is coastal in central Queensland and in New South Wales south of Sydney.[11] Similarly, B. spinulosa var. cunninghamii is widely separated between New South Wales and Victorian forms (where the longer leaved form was originally called B. prionophylla by Meissner). Notably both B. spinulosa var spinulosa and B. spinulosa var. collina in northern Queensland have old spikes bare as opposed to them having persistent old flower parts in New South Wales and Victoria.[11] Mast listed B. spinulosa var. collina and B. spinulosa var. neoanglica as sister clades in 1998, with B. spinulosa var. spinulosa and B. spinulosa var. cunninghamii flanking these. Alex George also reports that the taxon should be reviewed.[24] A molecular study with specimens of each subspecies from the three mainland eastern states they occur would shed light on this matter.[11]


Natural hybrids between B. s. var. spinulosa and B. ericifolia subsp. ericifolia have been recorded at Pigeon House Mountain in Morton National Park.[13] Banksia "Giant Candles" was a chance garden hybrid between B. ericifolia and B. spinulosa var. cunninghamii.[25]


There are a number of commercial varieties available from Australian retail nurseries, four have been registered under plant breeders' rights legislation, and another with the Australian Cultivar Registration Authority. The lack of official names has led to some varieties bearing several different names.[9]

  • B. s. var. collina 'Carnarvon Gold' is an all-gold flowered form from Carnarvon Gorge in central Queensland with long leaves and revolute margins which grows to around 2–5 m (7–25 ft) in height and 2–4 m (7–14 ft) across. The old flowers fall from the spikes.[26]
  • B. s. var. collina 'Stumpy Gold' is a spreading form (40 cm in 0 high by up to 1.2 m ft 1 across) with light gold flowers 15 cm in 0 high by 6 cm in 0 across from the vicinity of Catherine Hill Bay on the New South Wales Central Coast, propagated by Richard Anderson of Merricks Nursery.[27] It arises from a silty loam so theoretically should tolerate a heavier soil than 'Coastal Cushion'. Leaves are a more subdued green with greyish tinge than the south coast NSW spinulosa cultivars.[9]
  • B. s. var. spinulosa 'Birthday Candles', the original trailblazer, is a compact plant growing to 45 cm in 0 tall and up to 1 m ft 0 across with red-styled gold flowers 15 cm high by 6 cm across. The leaves are narrow with attractive lime green new growth. Stems and branches naturally crooked. It was granted PBR status in 1989, after an application by Bill Molyneux of Austraflora Pty Ltd.[28] The provenance of the original material was an exposed headland hear Ulladulla on the New South Wales South Coast.[27] It appears to fare better in Mediterranean climates with reports of patchy performance in Sydney (though better in pots) and unreliability in Brisbane. There are reports of it flowering in alternate years only. It is reported to be an unreliable survivor, although this may be due to it being popular to novices.[9]
Banksia spinulosa, 'Coastal Cushion' in Kenthurst
  • B. s. var. spinulosa 'Cherry Candles', bred by Bill Molyneux from the 'Birthday Candles' cultivar, is a compact plant growing to 45 cm tall and up to 100 cm across with cherry red-styled gold flowers, darker than its parent, 15 cm high by 6 cm across. It was released commercially in Spring 2004,[9] and granted PBR status in February 2005, after an application by Molyneux.[29]
  • B. s. var. spinulosa 'Coastal Cushion' (= 'Schnapper Point') was originally collected by Neil Marriott and called 'Schnapper Point' from the same locality as 'Birthday Candles'. This is a more spreading plant to 50 cm tall and up to 1.5–2 m across with dark red-styled gold flowers (a couple of shades darker than 'Birthday Candles') 15 cm high by 6 cm across. It is propagated by Richard Anderson of Merricks Nursery. It appears to be more adaptable to points north than other dwarf forms – growing reliably in southeastern Queensland. This form can be very floriferous, with some plants sporting more than 40 inflorescences at any one time.[9][27]
  • B. s. 'Coastal Candles', propagated by Merv Hodge, came from Philip Vaughan's 'Schnapper Point' plant. Some plants are behaving differently, so it may be that not all material is exactly the same clone.[9]
Banksia spinulosa 'Honey Pots'
  • B. s. var. spinulosa 'Golden Cascade' is yet another plant from the same locality as 'Birthday Candles'; this is more spreading again, to perhaps 30 cm tall and up to 1.5–2 m across with red-styled gold flowers 15 cm high by 6 cm across. It is also seen as B. spinulosa 'prostrate'. Propagated by Gondwana Nursery, this is a relatively new release.[9]
  • B. s. var. spinulosa 'Honey Pots' is a form with all gold flowers to 20 cm high (taller than forms listed above), however it is a little larger with reports of it growing to 1 m high, with odd reports of it getting taller than this, by 1.2 m across. It comes from south coast in Victoria, propagated by Rod Parsons of Carawah Nursery in Victoria.[9]
Banksia spinulosa var, cunninghamii 'Lemon glow' – Illawarra Grevillea Park, Bulli April 2005
  • B. s. var. spinulosa (dwarf forms) – Rod Parsons of Carawah Nursery in Victoria has two red-styled fairly compact dwarf forms, one (all serrated – slow growing, possibly collina) growing to 1 m, the (leaf ends serrated only, faster growing) other 1.5 m – and there are others reported but not named.[9]
  • B. s. var cunninghamii 'Lemon Glow' was registered with ACRA in 1982 by Alf Salkin and hails from French Island in Victoria, growing 2–3 m (7–10 ft) with all lemon yellow flowers. Currently propagated by Phillip Vaughan and Kuranga Nursery, both in Melbourne. It is reported to be frost hardy and moderately resistant to drought.[30][2]
  • There is a form sold as a Banksia (spinulosa) cunninghamii variant, propagated by Bournda Plants of Tura Beach on the NSW south coast. The plants reach 70 cm after four years and have black-styled gold inflorescences. The form came from David Shiels of Wakiti Nursery in Victoria, who got it from Alf Salkin. It has a white underside (not brownish) and has a couple of serrations close to the tip of the leaf, typical of B. s. var. spinulosa.[9]



  1. Cavanagh, A (1982). "Notes on the Cultivation of Banksias in Europe in the 18th and 19th Centuries". Banksia Study Report (6): 29–33. ISSN 0728-2893. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Wrigley, J.; Fagg, M. (1991). Banksias, Waratahs and Grevilleas. Sydney: Angus & Robertson. p. 117. ISBN 0-207-17277-3. 
  3. McCredie, T. A.; T. W. Dixon, K. Sivasithamparam (1985). "Variability in the resistance of Banksia L.f. species to Phytophthora cinnamomi Rands". Australian Journal of Botany 33 (6): 629–637. doi:10.1071/BT9850629. 
  4. Eliot, RW; Jones DL, Blake T (1985). Encyclopaedia of Australian Plants Suitable for Cultivation: Vol. 2. Port Melbourne: Lothian Press. ISBN 0-85091-143-5. 
  5. Template:The Banksia Book
  6. 6.0 6.1 Eliot, RW; Jones DL, Blake T (1994). Encyclopaedia of Australian Plants Suitable for Cultivation: Supplement No. 1. Port Melbourne: Lothian Press. ISBN 0-85091-659-3. 
  7. Maclean, R (1995). "Propagation of Banksias". Banksia Study Report 10: 6–16. ISSN 0728-2893. 
  8. United States Patent and Trademark Office (2007). "General Information About 35 U.S.C. 161 Plant Patents". Patents, Guidance, Tools and Manuals. United States Patent and Trademark Office. Retrieved on 2007-10-08.
  9. 9.00 9.01 9.02 9.03 9.04 9.05 9.06 9.07 9.08 9.09 9.10 Liber, C. (2004). "Update on Eastern Cultivars" (PDF). Banksia Study Group Newsletter 5 (1): 3–5. ISSN 1444-285X. Retrieved 2007-06-23. 
  10. McHugh, Ann (September 2005). "Blackdown Tableland". Australian Plants 23 (184): 123–133. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 Liber, C. (2003). "Range Extension/Clarification of Banksia spinulosa". Bulletin (Qld Journal of SGAP) 42 (2): 15–16. Template:ISSN. 
  12. Fairley, A.; P. Moore (2000). Native Plants of the Sydney District: An Identification Guide (2nd ed.). Kenthurst: Kangaroo Press. ISBN 0-7318-1031-7. 
  13. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Harden_2002
  14. 14.0 14.1 Template:The genus Banksia L.f. (Proteaceae)
  15. Template:APNI
  16. Kemp, B. (2004). Wildflowers of the North Coast of New South Wales. Kenthurst: New Holland Press. ISBN 1-877069-05-1. 
  17. Template:APNI
  18. Salkin, AI (1979). "The Oncostylis in Eastern Australia". Banksia Study Report (5): 2–4. ISSN 0728-2893. 
  19. Template:APNI
  20. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named George_1999
  21. Salkin, AI (1982). "Some Remarks about the genus Banksia in Eastern Australia". Banksia Study Report (6): 20–23. ISSN 0728-2893. 
  22. George, Alex S (1988). "New taxa and notes on Banksia L.f. (Proteaceae)". Nuytsia 6 (3): 309–17. 
  23. Template:APNI
  24. George, Alex S (1998). "Proteus in Australia: An Overview of the Current State of Taxonomy of the Australian Proteaceae". Australian Journal of Systematic Botany 11 (4): 257–66. doi:10.1071/SB98024. 
  25. Australian Cultivar Registration Authority. "Banksia 'Giant Candles'". Descriptions of registered cultivars. Retrieved on 2006-11-15.
  26. Salkin, A. (1995). "The Collection of Eastern Banksias". Banksia Study Report 10: 3–5. ISSN 0728-2893. 
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 Stewart, Angus (2001). Gardening on the Wild Side. Sydney: ABC Books. p. 105. ISBN 0-7333-0791-4. 
  28. "Hairpin Banksia (Banksia spinulosa) – Variety:'Birthday Candles'". Plant Breeders Rights – Database Search. Commonwealth of Australia (2005). Retrieved on 2007-10-07. Template:Dead link
  29. "Hairpin Banksia (Banksia spinulosa) – Variety:'Cherry Candles'". Plant Breeders Rights – Database Search. Commonwealth of Australia (2007). Retrieved on 2007-10-07. Template:Dead link
  30. Template:The Banksia Book

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