Grevillea robusta. SILKY OAK. New South Wales
PROTEACEAE (Protea family)

Silky oaks were freely planted on campus at one time for their fast growth, ability to survive neglect, and spectacular golden flowers. Two survivors are at the edge of the New Guinea Garden along Lomita Drive, one is in the grove north of the Lou Henry Hoover Building, and others are in the arboretum. In Palo Alto it can be seen at 1115 Hamilton Avenue. When in flower around the first of May they are easy to locate but they are also identifiable by the unusual leaves and the feathery texture of the foliage. About 100 unusual flowers, arranged in a 4-inch long raceme, have no petals; the stamens are latched like safety pins to isolate the anthers until the stigmas are fertilized. The black hooked pods contain winged seeds.

The leaves fall in the spring making a spectacular mess that would be less noticeable if they fell in the fall. In some years seedlings can be found and transplanted. They do very well in offices, growing rapidly and looking rather like ferns. The trees are widely planted around the world as ornamentals and in Kenya are planted between tea bushes for shade. The wood, often referred to as silk oak, has conspicuous shiny medullary rays. At one time, nearly every lift in Sydney was paneled with veneer peeled from silky oak logs.

Grevillea 'Noel,' with recognizably similar (red) flowers and pods, is a vigorous bush. It has been planted as a ground cover on the bank south of the southeast corner of the Main Quad, in Lomita Mall, and north of the Art Gallery and Lou Henry Hoover Building. Varietal names are customarily capitalized and not italicized, and since 1959 the use of Latinized species names (ending in -ii or -iana, for example), referred to as specific epithets in the official wording, has been a no-no (nursery labels reading 'Noellii' notwithstanding).

Illustrations (links open new windows): flowers | Silhouettes from Trees of Stanford & its Environs

Additions/Revisions: other locations for Grevillea 'Noel': Campus Dr. near Arrillaga; 340 Bonair Siding.

Name derivation, genus | species

Related material: Canopy Trees for Palo Alto Tree Library

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