Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Silky Oaks @ Oakdale

I made a fleeting visit to Peter and Margaret Olde’s garden in Oakdale today. Aptly called ‘Silky Oaks’, it boasts foremostly a great collection of grevilleas from around the country. Most people would know Peter Olde for his books with Neil Marriott on Grevillea, and he is a frequent visitor to the National Herbarium of New South Wales (at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney) and their Proteaceae (protea/grevillea family) collections.

The Science and Public Programs branch held a staff meeting and small social function there today – it’s close to Mount Annan Botanic Garden and a chance to spend a little time learning about the things we all love, plants! The small function was, among other things, to celebrate the 50th birthday of our Director of Science and Public Programs, Brett Summerell.

50...

Not 50...

I had a quick tour around the garden with Peter but only saw a small fraction of the Olde’s estate. There were not just grevilleas, but also plenty more Proteaceae – particularly Persoonia and Banksia – and some great grafted banksias, including a grand Banksia grandis. Among them, a selection of choice horticultural specimens of wattle, Correa and others. All very pretty, and botanically interesting.

Peter did stress that we need to return in spring but as I noted after my walk in the Ku-ring-gai bush on the weekend, it’s amazing how many plants are (at least a little) in flower.

7 comments:

Jarrett said...

Like most Laurasians exiled to your continent, I find Australian common names refer to incredibly faint resemblences to plants of the north. What is it about Grevillea that resembles Quercus? Just the timber of the tree species?

I thought of this when I first encountered the lovely Grevillia oleoides on the Royal's coastal heath. The leaves look sorta-kinda like olive leaves, but only in a way that many Aussie species do. My best explanation was to imagine a couple of mid-19c botanists, perhaps of Italian descent, slogging through the untracked coastal heath on a hot day, their bodies covered with leeches and punctured with Hakea gibbosa spikes. "Hey, mate, isn't this a new grevillea?" "I don't know, but I know some olives would taste really good right now ..."

Tim Entwisle said...

Fair comment. I guess when faced with a whole new flora you try and find suitable hooks for hanging your new information. If you can relate something to a tree or animal back home, you do that - at least you can communicate (albeit cumbersomely) with your fellow Laurasians. "There's that large rat thing again", "That oaky tree is here as well".

My understanding is that it was the timber of the tree grevilleas that led to the common name 'silky oak' - but haven't checked.

When it comes to scientific names, you have to assume a little more thinking has gone into the construction. But you need to cut the botanists a little slack. As grevilleas go, G. oleoides has leaves more like an olive than many others, so it's as good name as any!

Lynda Newnam said...

There are many 'oaks':

Caledonian Oak, Carnarvonia araliifolia
Dorrigo Oak, Alloxyllon pinnatum
Satin Oak, Alloxyllon wickhamii
Black Silky Oak, Stenocarpus reticulatus
Blush Silky Oak, Opisthiolepis heterophylla, Bleasdalea bleasdalei
Briar Silky Oak, Musgravea heterophylla
Brown Silky Oak, Darlingia darlingiana
Buff Silky Oak, Sphalmium racemosum
Crater Silky Oak, Musgravea stenostachya
Cream Silky Oak, Athertonia diversifolia
Ferny-Leaved Silky Oak, Grevillea pteridiifolia
Findlay's Silky Oak, Grevillea baileyana
Fishtail Silky Oak, Neorites kevediana
Hill's Silky Oak, Grevillea hilliana
Lamington's Silky Oak, Helicia lamingtoniana
Lomatia Silky Oak, Lomatia fraxinifolia
Mountain Silky Oak, Oritis excelsa
Mueller's Silky Oak, Austromuellera trinervia
Northern Silky Oak, Cardwellia sublimis
Red Silky Oak, Stenocarpus salignus
Rose Silky Oak, Placospermum coriaceum, Darlingia ferruginea
Satin Silky Oak, Macadamia grandis syn.hildebrandii
Southern Silky Oak, Grevillea robusta
Spotted Silky Oak, Buckinghamia celisissima
Whelan's Silky Oak, Macadamia whelanii
White Silky Oak, Stenocarpus sinuatus
Pear Silky Oak, Xylomelum pyriforme, Xylomelum scottianum

Aren't we all Gondwanans?

Tim Entwisle said...

If we add the poor old Laurasian 'Oak' (Quercus) to the list then perhaps we/they are all Pangaeans? Obviously not all closely related, and there are sure to be plenty of 'oaks' in the floras of other countries, but clearly someone felt there was an affinity of some kind between the gondwanan proteaceous oaks and the 'acorn tree back home'. A nice historical footnote at least.

Tim Entwisle said...

Very nice list by the way!

Lynda Newnam said...

From "Forest Flora of NSW Vol. 1" by Joseph Henry Maiden
"Hooker (Bot. Mag. , t. 3184) says: "From its deeply dissected foliage and the silkiness of the underside, it has obtained the name of `Silk Oak' among the pine-cutters of Moreton Bay." When split on the quarter this timber shows a handsome oak-like grain, the prefix "silky" being either because of the silky underside of the leaves, or on account of the bright appearance of the freshly split wood. Hooker's statement, written in 1832, may be the true explanation of why the name was originally applied. On the northern rivers I have known it to be called "White Silky Oak" and "Black Silky Oak," though I have not been able to clearly understand the difference."

I was thinking humans were all Gondwanans given their evolution in Africa.

Tim Entwisle said...

True! I thought there might be something behind your comment.

And thanks for Silky Oak background.