Buckinghamia celsissima

Ivory Curl, Ivory Curl Flower/Tree, Spotted Silky Oak

Family: Proteaceae

A tree to 30 metres tall in its natural habitat.

It is found naturally in Northern Queensland, close to the coast, from south of Cooktown to west of Townsville.

It typically grows in dry and wet rainforest, usually on volcanic soils.

Buckinghamia spp. have simple and alternate leaves. Similarly, to the Firewheel Tree (Stenocarpus sinuatus), the leaves can be unlobed and elongated with an overall oblong-lanceolate shape, or can have strong lobing with long individual segments (best described as unevenly forked – usually juvenile leaves) to 20 cm long and about 7 cm wide, dark to mid or light green in colour, with prominent venation, glossy green above with a white-tone below.

Buckinghamia spp. have flowers typical of the Proteaceae family with 4 tepals, 4 stamens and 1 carpel. In this species, flowers are produced in long pendant racemes up to 25 cm in length by about 3 cm wide, consisting of 10s or over 100 flowers, each about 1.5 cm wide, bright cream to white in colour, usually in summer and autumn (highly reminiscent of Macadamia inflorescences).

The fruit is a follicle, starting off green and then turning brown to black at maturity, to about 30 mm long by 20 mm wide, containing up brown seeds.

In the garden

This species is the well-known, popular and widely cultivated species in gardens and parks, in eastern and southern mainland Australia. It is spectacular in flower, bearing long showy sprays of sweetly fragrant, creamy-white flowers.

It does well as a street and park tree as well as a garden specimen. Also ideal for screening or windbreaks in a garden.

A hardy plant adaptable to a range of soil conditions, provided they are reasonably well drained, with moist soil. Plant in a sunny position for best results.

The only maintenance needed is for plants to be trimmed back behind the spent flowers.

The added bonus of this plant is that it does not grow anywhere near to the natural height, when planted in places like Sydney and Melbourne, usually forming a large shrub / small tree to 6 metres tall by 4 metres wide.

They make a fine display and offer a sweet perfume in the morning.

This is a favourite for many a native gardener.

Bird, insect and fauna attracting. Note: It is not tolerant of frost.


It can be propagated from fresh seeds or cuttings of hardened new growth.

Other information

Buckinghamia is a genus of only two species, both endemic to northern Queensland. The second species, B. ferruginiflora, was only recently described in 1988 and has the conservation status of “near threatened” currently officially listed by Queensland government legislation.

Buckinghamia spp. likely live in habitats which do not burn and so would likely die in a fire. It may be able to regenerate from the seedbank.

Buckinghamia – named in Honour of Richard Grenville (1823-1889), the Third Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, who was Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1866 to 1868. The genus was named in 1868 by Ferdinand von Mueller, from a collection made by John Dallachy, near Rockingham Bay, on 11 January 1865.

celsissima – Latin for “the highest”, “raised” or “lofty”, a reference to the tall habit of the species in the wild.

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

Australian Native Plants Society (Australia) – Buckinghamia celsissima profile page https://anpsa.org.au/plant_profiles/buckinghamia-celsissima/

Gardening with Angus – Buckinghamia celcissima profile page:

‘Australian Rainforest Plants for Your Garden’, Darren Mansfield Simon and Schuster 1992. Page 104

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Jeff Howes. Additional text by Hugh Statcy. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.