Walking in my garden today I found some Banksia serrata in flower. This tree has a gnarled and ancient looking trunk with cream flowers which are set against serrated brighter green leaves.
It is also known as the Saw Banksia (obviously from its serrated leaves) and Old Man Banksia.
This Australian plant is important within the storytelling and illustrations of May Gibbs. She was an accomplished artist who created a whole new world for children with characters derived from Australian plants and flowers in books like Sungglepot and Cuddlepie.
The ‘Big Bad Banksia Men‘ were the villians in her stories. They were derived from the seedpods of the banksia serrata/banksia aemula. The ‘big bad banksia men’ loom large in the minds of children in the early half of the 20th century in particular. Many Australian families would have a copy of Snugglepot and Cuddlpie on their bookshelves and is a ‘classic’ book of Australian children’s literature.
I don’t know about you but the photo below of the Banksia serrata’s open seed pod looks remarkably like a quite scary eye.