Grevillea scortechinii

Black Grevillea / Backwater Grevillea

Family: Proteaceae

Grevillea scortechinii is known as the Black Grevillea and is a spreading-scrambling shrub to 2 metres wide, growing to around 0.5 metres tall. It can form a groundcover.

It is a rare species in NSW, only growing on the northern tablelands, mainly in the Guyra area, and closely north-east. In NSW, it is a recognised subspecies named sarmentosa. A second subspecies, subsp. scortechinii grows only in Queensland, in a disjunct patch around Stanthorpe. The subspecies differ in the lobing of their leaves.

It is found in dry sclerophyll woodland on sandy loams.

It is a listed threatened species in the wild – with both subspecies listed as being threatened with extinction in their respective states.

Leaves are prickly, holly-like (pinnatifid or coarsely-toothed), up to 10 cm long by 6 cm wide, with up to 14 triangular lobes, dark green with a leathery texture.

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

This species is generally of the tooth-brush type. The inflorescences are secund (flowers all on one side), up to 50 millimetres long by 20 millimetres wide, black to very dark maroon. This flower colour is unusual in Grevilleas in particular and Australian plants in general.

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 about 20 mm long, dark purple to black in colour with green-yellow tips. The perianths are about 8 mm long, red-purple in colour.

The fruit is a follicle, with red-brown stripes of blotches, to about 1 cm wide.

In the garden

This species is not known to be cultivated to a large extent and little cultivation is available online. However, it is known to be grown. It may be more widely grown in the future.

It likely needs a well-draining sandy soil to do well. Check with local native nurseries for availability.

It has very attractive flowers with an unusual colour. It would be worth growing for this trait.

Although usually prostrate or semi-prostrate, the Black Grevillea will take advantage of nearby shrubs and grow up amongst their branches.


Propagate from seed or cuttings.

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 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.

scortechinii – named after Catholic Priest and Amateur Botanist, Benedetto Scortechinii (1845–1886) who spent time in Brisbane collecting and describing plants.

subsp. sarmentosa – Latin meaning “producing branches” or “vine-like” referring to the creeping habit of the species.

  • subspecies sarmentosa is listed as threatened with extinction in NSW (category: vulnearable) at the State and Commonwealth level.
  • subspecies scortechinii is listed as threatened with extinction in Queensland (category: critically endangered) at both State and Commonwealth level.

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Grevillea scortechinii profile page    https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Grevillea~scortechinii

NSW Office of Environment – Threatened Species Profiles – Grevillea scortechinii profile page https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspeciesapp/profile.aspx?id=10379

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 Warren and Gloria Sheather. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke