Geography and distribution
Banksia integrifolia at Byron Bay, Australia
Native to Eastern Australia (south-eastern Queensland, eastern New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania), coast banksia grows on coastal hills and in scrub down to sea level. Its range also extends to the fringes of rainforest and cloud forest on tablelands and peaks in the Great Dividing Range. As such, coast banksia has one the largest altitudinal, latitudinal and ecological ranges of all the Banksia species (of which there are more than 70).
Although the species itself is not threatened, one of its subspecies (B. integrifolia subsp. integrifolia) is presumed extinct in Tasmania, possibly as a result of heavy grazing and burning.
Overview: Banksia integrifolia is normally a tree growing up to 20 m tall, but can be reduced to a congested shrub in exposed coastal sites.
Leaves: The leaves are borne alternately on the stem, scattered or loosely whorled. They are evergreen, linear to oblanceolate or obovate, greyish-green above, silvery beneath, entire or with a few teeth towards the tip, 5-15 cm long and 2-7 cm wide.
Banksia integrifolia inflorescence
Flowers: The inflorescence is 5-15 cm long, upright and cylindrical. The flowers are pale yellow, crowded, paired in conspicuous vertical rows when in bud, and curved upwards when opening. The flowers are visited by a range of insects, birds (such as honeyeaters), and mammals, including the eastern pygmy-possum. Experiments have shown that fruit set is reduced when birds and mammals are prevented from visiting the flowers, indicating that these animals play a role in pollination.
Fruits: The fruit is cone-like, with scattered fertile capsules, which open with two rounded, woody lips.
Seeds: The winged seeds are flattish and black. Unlike most other species in the genus, B. integrifolia does not require bushfires to trigger the release of the seeds from the fruit.
Named in honour of Sir Joseph Banks
The genus Banksia was named in honour of Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), who collected specimens of coast banksia whilst on Captain Cook’s circumnavigation of the globe in the Endeavour in 1768-71. After returning to England, Banks came to recognise that the country needed a large, scientific garden, and became influential in transforming the Royal Gardens at Kew into a world-class botanic garden. Working alongside William Aiton, and his son William Townsend Aiton, Banks acted as unofficial director of Kew, using his numerous contacts to build up a very large collection of plants from around the world.
Banksia integrifolia inflorescence
Coast banksia is planted as an ornamental, and is popular in Australian gardens and as a street tree. It is particularly suited to coastal planting as it tolerates salt spray to a certain extent, and is used for beach reclamation and to provide shelter.
Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage
Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.
Description of seeds: Average 1,000 seed weight = 13.67 g
Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: Two
Seed storage behaviour: Orthodox? (the seeds of this plant survive drying without significant reduction in their viability, and are therefore amenable to long-term frozen storage such as at the MSB)
Banksia integrifolia is one of the easiest banksias to cultivate, growing well on both deep sandy soils and on clay. Hardier forms can tolerate some frost and will grow outdoors in coastal areas of southwest England, where it is best grown with as much winter sun as possible. Propagation is best by seed.
This species at Kew
At Kew, coast banksia can be seen growing in the Temperate House.
Samples of wood from Banksia integrifolia are held in the behind-the-scenes Economic Botany Collection at Kew, where they are made available to researchers by appointment.
Illustration from Curtis's Botanical Magazine
Curtis's Botanical Magazine (Editor: Martyn Rix) provides an international forum of particular interest to botanists and horticulturists, plant ecologists and those with a special interest in botanical illustration.
Now well over 200 years old, the Magazine is the longest running botanical periodical featuring colour illustrations of plants. Each four-part volume contains 24 plant portraits reproduced from watercolour originals by leading international botanical artists. Detailed but accessible articles combine horticultural and botanical information, history, conservation and economic uses of the plants described.
Illustration of Banksia integrifolia by W.J. Hooker (1827) reproduced from Curtis’s Botanical Magazine
Published for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
Find out more about Curtis's Botanical Magazine
Australia Landscape - Kew at the British Museum
In 2011, Kew and the British Museum brought to the heart of London a landscape showcasing the rich biodiversity of Australia, and how these fragile systems are under threat from land usage and climate change.
Banksia integrifolia (coast banksia) was one of 12 star plants featured in the Landscape, which took you on a journey across a whole continent, from eastern Australia’s coastal habitat, through the arid red centre, to the western Australian granite outcrop featuring unique and highly endangered plants.
Australia Landscape was part of the Australian season at the British Museum.
Supported by Rio Tinto.