Claire wrote and organized today’s entry:
This photograph of Banksia media, taken at the Ballarat Botanical Gardens in Ballarat, Australia, is courtesy of Eric (sftrajan@Flickr) of San Francisco, California (shared via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool). Thank you Eric!
Banksia is a fascinating genus in Proteaceae that is (mostly) endemic to Australia. One species in the genus is more broadly distributed, ranging to New Guinea and the Aru Islands, while a recent fossil discovery (published in 2010) also places the genus in New Zealand in the distant past.
Banksia media of Western Australia is but one example of a genus known for spike inflorescences that can contain thousands of flowers (though not all species have this characteristic). The cylindrical spikes of Banksia media can be up to 15cm tall and nearly 10cm wide when flowering. When flowering in the wild from winter to spring, the spikes are an irresistible perch, with the flowers being a treat to pollinators. Both birds and bees flock there due to nectar production. The bright yellow color of the thousands of flowers gives the species the common name of golden stalk.
In the summer, the once-flowery spikes of Banksia media become woody cones filled with hard follicles. As the species is fire-sensitive (no lignotuber to regenerate vegetatively after fires), new generations of the plant rely on propagation from seeds residing in the soil. Gardeners in coastal areas of Australia enjoy this plant for its ability to tolerate a range of soil conditions, moisture regimes and salt spray.