Grevillea buxifolia

Grey Spider Flower

Family: Proteaceae

A shrub to 2 metres tall and can spread to about 2 metres.

It grows in open woodlands, forests and well as coastal heaths, along the central coast of NSW and adjacent ranges, from an area in Wollemi National Park (west of Broke) coming south-east into the Greater Sydney area, east from Lithgow and south along the coast to about Ulladulla. Mainly found on sand and sandstone.

The branches are covered in reddish or brown hairs.

Leaves are elliptic to ovate or obovate, to 3.5 cm long and to 1 cm wide. They end in a little sharp point (mucro) and usually with a distinctive curve upwards towards the mucro.

A grevillea inflorescence is technically a cluster of paired flowers, termed a conflorescence with the overall structure forming a raceme-like appearance.

Grevillea species exhibit 3 main inflorescence structures:

1. A cylindrical to ovoid raceme (with flowers emerging around a 360° radius)

2. A single-sided raceme (with flowers produced on only one side, resembling a tooth-brush)

3. A condensed or clustered raceme (usually as long as it is wide, with species referred to as the spider-flowers)

Grevillea mostly produce the inflorescences at the terminals, beyond the foliage, which differs to the closely related Hakea.

This species is another of the spider-flowers, hence the common name. The inflorescences have a brown-grey appearance, the grey provided by dense silvery hairs. The perianths are often very pale to yellow. Flowers can be seen most of the year.

Individual flowers are composed of 1 carpel (female part) where the style and stigma protrude out; 4 stamens hidden away in the perianth; and the perianth (petals and sepals collectively) which connects to a pedicel. Proteaceae flowers do not have any discernible petals or sepals (having only one whorl) and so these are referred to as “tepals” of which there are 4. In this species, the carpels are to 17 mm long, densely hairy with white hairs.

The fruit is a follicle, about 1 cm long, usually hairy without dark stripes or blotches.

In the garden

This species is becoming more commonly grown and it does grow well in cultivation. Hardy on the east coast in a well-drained and sunny position and the terminal flowers are attractive (to the author who had trouble maintaining this plant in Sydney’s heavier soils). At the time of writing, there is a very showy specimen growing in Sutherland Shire Council’s Native Plant Nursery outside one of the depot buildings. It has been pruned and has a nice overall shape with plenty of inflorescences. Can be shaped into a dense shrub with correct pruning.

In a garden situation Grevilleas are good bird-attracting plants.


Grevilleas are propagated by three principal methods; seed, cuttings and grafting. Tissue culture has also been used with a few species and cultivars but this is a more specialist method which is not of practical interest to most amateur growers. To maintain desirable characteristics of a particular plant, vegetative propagation (e.g. cuttings or grafting) must be used. This also applies to propagation of named cultivars.

Other information

There are two recognised subspecies:
• subsp. buxifolia has a more obvious appendage on the styles of the carpels and with longer carpels. Most of the range.
• subsp. ecorniculata less obvious appendage and shorter carpels. Far north-west of the range.

The species Grevillea sphacelata and G. phylicoides also used to be in this complex.

Grevillea is a diverse genus of about 360 species of evergreen flowering plants native to rainforest and more open habitats in Australia, New Guinea, New Caledonia, Sulawesi and other Indonesian islands east of the Wallace Line. NSW currently has about 85 species although with a lot of subspecies and some informal taxa recognised.

Grevillea flowers were a traditional favourite among First Nations Peoples for their sweet nectar. This could be shaken onto the hand to enjoy, or into a coolamon with a little water to make a sweet drink. They might be referred to as the original “bush lollies”.

Most Grevillea species will regenerate from seed after fire but can produce coppicing shoots.

Grevillea – was named in honour of Charles Francis Greville (1749-1809), an 18th century patron of botany and co-founder of the Royal Horticultural Society. He was also a British antiquarian, collector and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1774 to 1790.

buxifolia – Latin – folia, “leaves”, and the genus Buxus (English Box / Boxwoods) and others, a reference to the appearance of the box-like foliage.

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

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Grevillea buxifolia subsp. buxifolia profile page

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

Wikipedia – Grevillea and Grevillea buxifolia profile pages https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grevillea https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grevillea_buxifolia

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke