Australian author May Gibbs cast the “Big Bad Banksia Men” as the villains of many of her stories, looking at the cones of the Old Man Banksia (Banksia serrata) it is quite easy to imagine them as heads of some creature (though I think casting them all as bad is doing the poor Banksia a disservice).
Banksias are named after botanist Joseph Banks who visited Botany Bay with then Lieutenant James Cook in 1770 and the species, in this case serrata refers to the serrated edges to the leaves.
Common on coastal sandstone and sand dunes, in the Hunter it is found as far inland as the Putty Valley the Old Man Banksia can grow to 15 metres tall, has warty bark and has the characteristic “Bottlebrush” flower. The flowers are important sources of nectar for numerous birds and insects and of course, the Sugar Glider.
Like most Banksias (Banksia marginata and Banksia integrifolia being exceptions) the seeds are held tight in woody follicles till a fire stimulates the follicles to open, a small “spring” keeps the seeds in place for a couple of days till it falls out allowing the seeds to fall safely onto the ground.
When extracting the seeds for propagation we can either use fire, a hot air gun or a hot oven to extract them, being a traditionalist (and minor pyromaniac) I prefer the fire method.