Monday, March 26, 2007

Banksia

Banksia is a genus of around 80 species in the plant family Proteaceae. They are native to Australia, occurring in all but the most arid areas. Easily recognized by their characteristic flower spikes and fruiting "cones", Banksia are a well-known Australian wildflower and a popular garden plant. They grow in forms varying from prostrate woody shrubs to trees up to 25 metres tall. They are normally known as Banksias or Australian Honeysuckle Trees.
Banksias grow as trees or woody shrubs. The largest trees, the Coast Banksia, B. integrifolia, and the River Banksia, B. seminuda, often grow over 15 metres tall, and may be up to 25 metres tall. Banksia species that grow as shrubs are typically erect, but there are some species that are prostrate, with branches that grow on or below the soil.
The leaves of Banksia vary greatly among species. Sizes vary from the narrow, 1–1½ centimetre long leaves of the Heath-leaved Banksia, B. ericifolia, to the very large leaves of the Bull Banksia, B. grandis, which may be up to 45 centimetres long. The leaves of most species have serrated edges, but a few, such as B. integrifolia, do not. Leaves are usually arranged along the branches in irregular spirals, but in some species they are crowded together in whorls.
Banksias are most without difficulty recognised by their characteristic flower spike, and the woody fruiting structures that appear after flowering. The flower spike consists of a central woody axis with a furry coating; it is usually held erect, but hangs down in a few species. This axis is enclosed in tightly-packed pairs of flowers, which are attached to the axis at right angles. A single flower spike may have over a thousand flowers.

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