Banksias (named for Sir Joseph Banks (1743–1820), who saw them at Botany Bay in 1770) belong to the Proteaceae (protea family); all have striking long-lived flowers in various combinations of color that attract birds and also last well when cut. Some are shrubs, some are substantial trees. The sizable woody fruit spikes remain on the tree for years, can be turned and polished on a lathe, are available for this purpose in California, and are loved in Australian song and story as “banksia men.”
On his return to Kew, Banks produced Florilegium, a masterpiece of botanical art, now rare, but held by the Filoli Library. Banksias thriving in private areas are known to include asplenifolia, ericifolia, marginata, serrata, and spinulosa. Species that have failed include media. B. speciosa is frost sensitive and thus struggles, but is still growing in the 340 Bonair garden.
Seedlings are obtainable from the University of California at Santa Cruz Arboretum, where a Banksia field presents the largest collection of these interesting plants outside Australia. Plantings on Maui supply the cut-flower trade on the United States mainland. Other members of the protea family include the grevilleas and, from South Africa, the bushy leucodendrons, leucospermums, and proteas that may be viewed at 775 Esplanada Way.
About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005. John Rawlings subsequently added the Bonair note.