Banksia nivea

Honeypot Dryandra, Couch Honeypot

Family: Proteaceae

A ground-covering small shrub-banksia from WA, found naturally in the south-west of WA, from Geraldton, extending south and east through Perth, Albany and Esperance. It is typically found on sandy soils in Jarrah Forests and woodlands and other sandy habitats.

The leaves are alternate to clustered in pseudo-whorls, to 45 cm long and to 1 cm wide, with regular teeth along the entire margin, and dark green and white underneath. The foliage can create a bun-like shape at ground level.

The inflorescences of banksias are generally referred to as spikes or a spike-like structure which consists of fused racemes of paired flowers (hence it gets referred to as a conflorescence). There can be 100s of flowers in each spike. The flowers of banksias have 4 tepals (petals or sepals) in a tubular formation, 4 anthers hidden inside and an elongated carpel (female part) where the style and extends outwards forming the edge of the spike (somewhat similar to individual grevillea and hakea flowers).

In this species (which used to be in the genus Dryandra) the spikes are generally to 8 cm long and up to 6 cm wide, with each flower thin but up to 8 cm long, bright reddish-orange when developing, becoming cream when the flowers open. In this species, the flowers run more in a vertically orientation (up the spike) rather than perpendicularly as in other banksias.

The spike then turns into a cone-like structure of follicles; a fruit which splits open on one side. Each follicle has one or two winged seeds which is actually a fruit in itself called a samara. The follicles can take a long time to mature and open, usually needing a fire or a drying out period. Each “cone” can produce a fair amount of seed with this species having follicles to 12 mm long with up to 50 follicles per “cone”.

In the garden

Popular in cultivation in WA but a bit less so on the east coast as they do not tolerate sub-tropical / humid conditions.

Plant in a sunny spot with good drainage. Suited to rockeries and large landscape beds where groundcovers are needed. Many banksias benefit from growing on a slight slope. Do not mulch too heavily. It is excellent for attracting honeyeater and other birds. Reported to be drought resistant once established.

Will grow consistently if happy and can spread to 1 m wide along the ground. Prune early to encourage more stems and flowers. However, not much pruning is required after that. Can be trained into a bun shape. Very suitable for sandy and coastal gardens.

Do not apply a high phosphorus fertiliser as Proteaceae are generally sensitive.

Has some frost tolerance.

Susceptible to Phytophthora and any other root rotting fungus.


Propagation from seed is very reliable and not too difficult.

Other information

This species was part of the former genus Dryandra – an iconic WA genus. Botanical studies found that Banksia species in WA were more closely related to those of Dryandra, than they were to east coast Banksia species. When this occurs, the simplest solution is to “lump” relatives under the one genus name. Hence all species in Dryandra were reclassified.

This species can regenerate after fire from the seed bank. It does not have a lignotuber.

Banksia is a now a genus of about 170 species (with the inclusion of the genus Dryandra) occurring in Australia but also 1 species in New Guinea and the Aru Islands Regency. NSW currently has about 16 species.

Banksia – named in honour of Joseph Banks (1743 – 1820), famous naturalist and botanist on the Endeavour and other expeditions, and President of the Royal Society for over 40 years. The genus was named in his honour by Linnaeus filius (Carl von Lynne – the Younger, son of the famous Carl von Lynne (Linneaus)).

nivea – Latin referring to “snowy” or “snow-white”, referring to the white leaf margins and undersides of the leaves.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.

Gardening with Angus – Banksia nivea profile page        https://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/banksia-nivea-honeypot-dryandra/

Wikipedia – Banksia nivea profile page                                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banksia_nivea

Western Australian Herbarium: Florabase – The Western Australian Flora – Banksia nivea profile page https://florabase.dpaw.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/32202

Kings Park and Botanic Garden – Native Plant Notes – Banksia nivea profile page https://www.bgpa.wa.gov.au/images/horticulture/docs/pn_banksia_niveav.pdf

By Dan Clarke