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Banksia Grandis (Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney)

Banksia Grandis (Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney)

Scarlet Banksia (Banksia coccinea) by Ferdinand Bauer from: 'Illustrationes Florae Novae Hollandiae' (1813) by Ferdinand Bauer

Scarlet Banksia (Banksia coccinea) by Ferdinand Bauer from: ‘Illustrationes Florae Novae Hollandiae’ (1813) by Ferdinand Bauer

Those "bad Banksia Men", by May Gibbs

Those “bad Banksia Men”, by May Gibbs

General Information & Description:
Banksia @ Wikipedia
Banksia @ Australian National Botanical Gardens

Where: Australia wide, coastal regions, do not occur in arid zones.

Planetary Correspondence:
Wood, leaves, bark, fruit cones: Saturnian (Martial sub or undercurrent)
Flowers: Martial (Mercurial sub or undercurrent)

Further Information:
The banksia species are interesting in their correspondence. In folk lore, Aboriginal Lore and general culture, uses of the plant varies greatly, and often responds to individual parts as opposed to the whole plant. It is valued for the beautiful flower spike that occur in the summer, for use as both a garden plant and cut flower. These flowers are very important in terms of the environment, they attract many native birds, bats and other types of nector hungry creatures, including people! Such things might impress one with a slightly more Venusian nature. But the abundance and beauty of the flowers, is not followed by a similar fruit.

The fruit of the banksia is as culturally significant to Australians as the flowers, if not more so; made famous as the Banskia Men of May Gibbs’ Snugglepot and Cuddlepie¬†(1918). Gibbs’s nasty “big bad banskia men” which were inspired by the iconic image of the fruit cones, are possible closer to the nature of the fruit itself, which for all intents and purposes is pretty useless. Most species are so woody they require to be completely dried out before giving up seed, and some are so extreme they require fire.

The relationship between bankia and fire is important. They very often are the first species to emerge again after bushfire (since some require fire to seed), and many are so tough, raging Australian bushfires do not penetrate their bark and they simply continue on as they were. Many species suffer if they get too wet from ‘die back’ a mold that attacks the root system. But none will survive the desert. Some Aboriginal peoples used the cones and wood to transport fire from place to place, and they are a fabulously slow burning wood. And the cones a wonderful addition to any fire if you can collect them as part of your kindling.

The leaves can portray their true nature being often thorny, spikey and generally just hard. These are not plants that you’ll find swaying in the wind.

I primarily use banksia of several local species for addition to Saturnian work. But the fire of this plant adds something slightly more aggressive to that. Separate to the wood, the bark, fruit and leaves, the flowers I consider to be the heart of the manifestation of that fire, and consider them Martial, and to an extent Mercurial.

Banksia wood and cones, in keeping with the more Saturnian nature, is very dark, reddish, uniquely grained and often used to make vessels and containers. But in terms of structural uses and furniture is not favoured. Once it dries out, it warps, making it mostly good to burn.

Like so many plants, culturally, they stand as a memento, being named for Sir Joseph Banks, the botanist who traveled to Terra Australis with Captain James Cook’s expedition aboard the Endeavour. And below is a drawing from that expedition by John Frederick Miller, Banks’s botanical artist.

These plants are often twisted, low to the ground, even in larger tree species, dark and difficult. Grey, black, wiry and their leaves designed to give up very little moisture. There is an inward turning, almost selfish nature about the banksia, until the moment it flowers. And then it explodes with spears full of a honey sweet nectar fire that will drive the local fauna to distraction. It is in view of this I have designated correspondences to the flowers separately to the rest of the plant in order for you to utilise the fire of this plant to the greatest effect.

Banksia Serata, by John Frederick Miller 1773, watercolour on paper completed at Botany Bay.

Banksia Serata, by John Frederick Miller 1773, watercolour on paper completed at Botany Bay.