Imagining Banksia Generations


The Coast Banksia in all phases of its flowering

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







29 responses to “Imagining Banksia Generations

  1. As you would say Robyn, a serendipitous moment just occurred!
    My spontaneous response to your blog was exactly our Meg’s!
    So what else can I say other than love the way you take an observation of nature and expand it to include our lives and give it meaning. You are amazing! Xx

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Banksia are so beautiful, and you’ve written a post to match. I also enjoyed the link to the info about your native bush rat – such a pretty little thing. A year or two ago I spotted what looked like a ball of black fluff on my lawn and when I went to investigate I saw it was a young black rat – the first properly black one I’ve ever seen. It sauntered away from me with a distinctly nonchalant air. They do terrible damage to our native birdlife, but it was also a pretty little thing.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. This is really nice to read, Robyn. It interests, encourages, enlightens, and pleases–all the while warming the heart. Mine, I mean. (Cliches can be true too.) I’m glad that I read it tonight. Probably I’ll do that again tomorrow, and more. P. S. The James Baldwin quotation got me thinking too, and feeling. But Im not sure about the idea that “we are responsible to them” as “the only witnesses they have.” I’ll take more time to reflect on that. Meantime I’ll keep in mind the monk Zosima’s instructions to Alyosha that we are responsible for all person right now. (The Brothers Karamazov)

    Liked by 3 people

    • Albert, such kind words! I’m always interested to hear what you think. I really liked the Baldwin quote but like you, wasn’t quite sure what was meant by the phrases you mention. Then I thought about how the past is perceived and conveyed, how it is previous generations who write history. I also thought about how history tells us who we are, and sets expectations for who we might become. I think the monk is right. As human aspects of the Web of Life, everyone of us is responsible for ourselves, for all others and for all things, before, now and in the future. Does that make sense? A bit heavy for a Monday afternoon? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This was a refreshing post, challenging my awkward view of banksia. I’ve always found them alarming, un-plant-like plants, liable to show their legs and whiskers at any minute. So the rat discussion is more than slightly relevant.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Robyn, I don’t think we have Banksia here in the states but we do have the bottlebrush bush. Maybe they are related? I could just picture you bing overtaken by little grandies – a joyful scene. This quote from Baldwin is one I will save. Thank you for it and I wish you a lovely week. Clare

    Liked by 1 person

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