Grevillea synapheae

Catkin Grevillea

Family: Proteaceae

This highly ornamental and hardy spreading shrub grows from 0.2 m to 0.4 m high, by 1 to 1.5 m wide and can form a solid groundcover.

It is found naturally in the south-west of Western Australia, close to the coast, from around Perth. north to Eneabba and Three Springs.

It grows on sandy and granite soils, in low heathland and shrubland, often on higher ground.

Leaves are alternate along the stems, usually dark green above and with glaucous undersides, but with new growth bronze, normally divided into 3 to 7 lobes, to about 7 cm long by 4 cm wide.

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

This species flowers profusely with narrow-cylindrical racemes of cream to yellow flowers, produced over a long period from late winter to spring, to about 4 cm long by 1 cm wide. The shape of the inflorescences resembles a catkin, a type of inflorescence produced in plants like Birches, Beeches and Oaks.

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, flowers are very small, about 5 mm long, light cream to deep cream.

The fruit is a follicle, to about 5 mm long.

In the garden

This is a showy addition for any garden bed, rockery or container. It can be planted in any open location either singly in mixed plantings or massed as a low hedge.

Plants are long lived and suitable for landscaping embankments, nature strips and low water use gardens.

It prefers well drained acidic soil in full sun or part shade and is drought and frost tolerant.

It responds well to moderate pruning.

It can be a skin irritant.


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

There are a number of subspecies of G. synapheae. The taxon was originally named by Robert Brown in 1830.

Most grevilleas regenerate from seed after fire. Some can reshoot from buried rhizomes.

Grevillea flowers were a traditional favourite among First Nations Peoples of Australia 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”.

Grevillea is a diverse genus of about 365 species with about 357 occurring in Australia. Some species occur in New Caledonia, Indonesia and New Guinea. NSW currently has about 85 species although with a lot of subspecies and some informal taxa recognised.

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.

synapheae – from Ancient Greek synaphe (συναφή) meaning ‘union’ or ‘connection’ – referring to the anthers being joined to the stigmas.

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

Western Australian Herbarium: Florabase – The Western Australian Flora. https://florabase.dpaw.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/2101

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 Heather Miles. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.