Banksia: New Proteaceous Cut Flower Crop*
Horticultural Reviews. 1998. 22: 1-25.
Department of Horticulture, Viticulture, and Oenology
Waite Agricultural Research Institute
The University of Adelaide
Banksia species are already established as cut flower crops,
and are amongst the most readily identifiable of Australian native plants.
They are accepted on international markets and demand currently exceeds
supply. This situation will not continue indefinitely, and while lesser
quality may be acceptable in a sellers' market, this will not be the case
as supply increases. Considerably more research is needed into all aspects
of Banksia production so that stems can compete with the high
standard expected of established cut flower crops such as rose and carnation.
In addition to making good commercial sense, there are strong environmental reasons why further research into Banksia biology is essential. Until the early 1980s, most Banksia stems for the cut flower market were bush picked from the native habitat, particularly in south western Australia (Pegrum 1988), and Banksia is still the second largest bush picked genus in Australia. This has resulted in major damage to natural ecosystems via disturbance, introduction of disease, and depletion of seed reserves. Soil and plant destruction is caused by access vehicles, and soil borne diseases are spread on tires and footwear. The root rot fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi attacks a wide range of native general including Banksia, and is very readily distributed (Shearer et al. 1991). The aerial canker diseases Diplodina sp., Zythiostroma spp., and Botryosphaeria ribis Gossenb, & Dugger are spread via infected secateurs, and have been the cause of more recent concern. Diplodina cankers girdle branches and eventually kill the plant, the disease being most prevalent in stands aged over 12 years. Removal of blooms depletes the seed bank and has implications for continued regeneration. Legislation is now in place to prevent bush picking of B. coccinea and B. baxteri from crown land, and this has resulted in an increase in Banksia plantings for cut flower production.
The visual appeal of Banksia blooms is unquestioned, but there are other features that will ensure continued popularity, including long shelf life and variety of colour and form. Continued research input into production problems is needed to ensure stability of the international industry in a new but increasingly popular cut flower commodity.