Tuesday, December 28, 2010


One of the many Old Man Banksias (Banksia serrata) near the house has produced a mass of new flowers. But only one - the vagaries of plant fertility escape me. It just looks too obvious to call them our Christmas candles, but they do, don't they?

These are the summer-flowering Banksias (the others - B. spinulosa, marginata, integrifolia -flower from autumn, through the winter and into spring). Last years flowers, and years before as well, sit alongside. 'As I am so shall you be' my father would have said, as is being proven increasingly to be the case.

Not that the young ones need much attention. A closer look suggests the silvery cream new flowers are themselves more than well organised.

It's the old dried flowers, with their variably gawping seed pods, patriaching (or matriaching, anyones guess) over the juveniles, that earned these stay-arounds the title of Big Bad Banksia Men in the May Gibbs comics. What's a comic without bad men intent on abducting innocents.

The man behind the (genus) name is the underestimated (by many Australians at least) Sir Joseph Banks. Most will associate him with botany and James Cook, captain and commander. As it turns out, he had garnered significant influence in scientific circles in London and access to the Crown, and was in all probability one of the most coercive in the establishment of the colony. So much so that we were nearly named BANKSIA. We'd have been Banksians! I'm working on the anthem at the moment.

Early portraits suggest a man of rackish charm.

I rather like the look of him. And the Old Bad Men. In fact, there's a bowl of them on the table in the hall.

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