Grevillea oleoides

Red Spider Flower

Family: Proteaceae

A shrub to 3 metres high.

It typically grows in moister areas of dry sclerophyll woodland or shrubland/heath, often beside creeks or in swampy ground, on sandstone and sandy soils.

Its natural range is confined to NSW, from Port Jackson to the Illawarra region, and on the ranges from Katoomba to Robertson.

Leaves are alternate, to 14 cm long and to 2 cm wide, margins entire and curved to rolled down (recurved), upper surface wrinkled, lower surface with a silver sheen of hairs. Leaves are also have a short apical point (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 a spider-flower with clusters of bright red to deeper-red flowers, 2 to 4 cm long, often almost one-sided. Atypically, this species produces inflorescences in the leaf axils.

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, these are red or rarely pink, and joined together in pairs, hairy outside, bearded inside.The overall carpel (female part) extends out to 35 mm long; style red or rarely pink, hairless except for short erect hairs near the tips.

Flowering occurs mainly winter and spring.

The fruit is a hairless follicle, about 2 x 1 cm long.

In the garden

An attractive shrub with its bright red flowers and olive-like leaves.

Not overly popular in cultivation as shrubs are a bit spindly without much spread. But worth a try in a sandy garden. Grows in skeletal soils on sandstone and so may be temperamental. Reported to grow well in shade.

Reported to be a hardy plant in most situations in full sun and also performs well in part shade.

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


Grevilleas are propagated by three principal methods; seed, cuttings and grafting. 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

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 copping 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.

oleoides – Latin – referring to the Olive genus, Olea, as the leaves resemble those of olive plants.

Note: there is another species, Grevillea olivacea (from WA), which goes by the common name Olive-leaved Grevillea.

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

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Grevillea oleoides profile page

Mallee Design – Shade Tolerant Grevillea – Grevillea oleoides

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. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke