Saturday, 19 September 2009

Our Northernmost Coastal Banksia


The Coastal Banksia we know and love in New South Wales can be found to about half the way up the coast of Queensland, and south to Wilsons Promontory in Victoria. But is does vary along the way.

The ‘typical’ form – and the very first scientific specimen – was collected by Sir Joseph Banks from Botany Bay in 1770. I have a specimen from this gathering in a cabinet once used by Banks, now in my Director’s Office at the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Overlapping with the range of this typical form is a subspecies called monticola, found from the basalt outcrops of Mount Tomah and Mount Wilson up to south-eastern Queensland, and one called compar further north, up to about Mackay.

A fourth variant, once considered to be a subspecies of Banksia integrifolia, but since 1996 considered to be a distinct species, is now called Banksia aquilonia. It’s only found naturally in northern Queensland, in coastal and mountain areas from Paluma Range to Mount Finnigan National Park, but also on Hinchinbrook Island. It’s called Jingana by the Jirrbalangan people of Tully, and sometimes the Northern Coastal Banksia by others.

We have 27 year-old Jingana in flower, beautifully photographed by Simon Goodwin above, on the corner of the National Herbarium of New South Wales. It was collected from the Atherton Tableland in 1982.

Banksia aquilonia is different from Banksia integrifolia in having a row of short, stiff brown hairs on either side of the middle ridge on the underside of the leaf. The valves that open to release the seeds are also slightly larger than those of Banksia integrifolia.

It’s a species that could be grown more widely than it is – obviously it’s pretty hardy given how well it toughs it out beside the herbarium. At least it’s at the northern end of the building.

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