I love banksias!
An ideal plant for coastal areas, they just keep on giving. With dark leathery leaves and silvery undersides, they flower from late summer through to winter. Nectar loving birds like lorikeets and honey-eaters love them. In fact, all sorts of nectarivorous animals, like birds, bats, rats, possums, stingless bees and a host of invertebrates feast on their bounty in a symbiotic relationship of food source, pollination and soil preparation for the next generation of plants and animals.
Named after Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820 ) who was the first European to collect specimens of these plants in 1770, all but one of the 173 Banksia species, (plant family Proteaceae), occurs naturally in Australia. There are also a number of Banksia cultivars. (ref.)
I’ve been away from my tiny courtyard garden this past week, staying in the coastal village of Salt on the far north coast of New South Wales. I’ve taken advantage of the many walking and bike trails in this lovely sea-side area, graced with banksias like the ones pictured.
While there seems to be a number of varieties here, I think the most abundant are the Coast Banksias (Banksia integrifolia) which tolerate the salt spray so well. The waning afternoon light filters through the foliage setting the brushy upright flowers and my imagination alight.
Walking through Nature prompts thoughts about the cycle of life and I imagined the tree as a community, populated by different flower generations. Some just emerging from buds, some in their beautiful prime, while yet others were at the end of their flowering life and making ready in their seed pods for the generations to follow. Beneath the trees, even the dead flowers and leaves have a purpose: to nourish the soil in preparation for the seeds. Each life phase is important in the overall scheme. Without each phase the new generation of plants could not thrive.
It’s this connected-ness, this organic nature of things, that gives me pause. I see my own worth anew. As ‘the older’ generation, I see I have a purpose and a duty to future generations to fulfil.
The family returned home yesterday. My grandies barrelled down the airport concourse and threw themselves into my arms for the longest hug. It was the best feeling ever. Minutes before I had been watching similar scenes take place around me.
All generations, in various phases of flowering, needing and relying on each other.
“For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”
― James Baldwin