Wakehurst Place botanists coax Tasmanian Banksia into flower

Botanists at Wakehurst Place have recorded the first UK outdoor flowering of the hard-to-propagate Banksia from the opposite side of the world.

Dr Chris Clennett with the outdoor flowering Banksia at Wakehurst
Dr Chris Clennett with the outdoor flowering Banksia at Wakehurst

Botanists from Royal Botanic Gardens Kew’s country estate visited Tasmania to collect seed for the Millennium Seed Bank, located at Wakehurst.

With the help of the Tasmanian Botanic Garden botanists, they went to Scotts Peak Dam in the South Western National Park, a wilderness area almost inaccessible to visitors and collected seed from a five metre-tall Banksia marginata tree there.

Banksia marginata, known as the silver banksia or honeysuckle in Australia, is a large shrub or small tree from south east Australia and Tasmania. Banksia is a member of the Protea family, which developed in isolation, and shows how a single plant family was separated by continental drift.

Wakehurst Garden manager Dr Chris Clennett said: "Over the last two years we have planted several young specimens of Banksia marginata in the gardens near the Mansion to increase our collection of Southern Hemisphere plants.

"We believe this is the first time this species has flowered outside in Great Britain. It’s a tremendous achievement by the whole team to have these exciting plants flowering in the gardens. We may have a long way to go before they reach the size of their parent tree, but we have planted in our most protected places to give them a fighting chance.

"To have this many flowers so quickly shows how happy the plants are already, so I look forward to seeing them grow and flower each year."

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