Hakea eriantha develops into a medium to tall shrub or small tree, potentially to 10 metres tall but often seen smaller.
It has a very interesting natural occurrence, occurring in NSW, on the north coast, northern tablelands and north-western slopes botanical subdivisions and then with a disjunction to the southern tablelands and south coast of NSW. It extends into Queensland in the northern distribution (north from around Newcastle NSW), through the coast and tablelands, as far north as Kroombit Tops. In the southern areas, it extends from around Lake George, south into Victoria, where it grows through the eastern half of the state to about Warburton.
It grows in moist to wet sclerophyll woodland and forest, usually on enriched soils.
The usual form has spiral to alternate, lanceolate, mid-green leaves, to 15 cm long by 2 cm wide. East of Armidale, on the Waterfall Way, there is a population with very narrow leaves that are only 0.5 cm wide.
A hakea inflorescence is technically a cluster of paired flowers, termed a conflorescence (although sometimes the paired flowers are not evident) with the overall structure forming a clustered-raceme-like appearance. The inflorescences are always produced in the leaf axils, as opposed to the closely related Grevillea where they are mostly terminal. They can appear as a spider-flower-like cluster, or a rounded ball where flowers emerge around a 360° radius, or as a cylindrical raceme (which strongly resemble those of Grevillea).
In this species, flowers are white and held in small clusters at the base of leaf axils, appearing in spring. 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 perianth is to 6 mm long with white appressed hairs, with the carpels to 8 mm long, often with a green tinge.
The woody follicles are ovoid, to 30 mm long by 15 mm wide, with a hooked beak and contain the usual two winged seeds. They persist on the plant.
We have been growing Hakea eriantha for many years (in a cool-climate garden near Armidale) and have found the species to be hardy, drought and frost resistant. Hakea eriantha develops into a medium to tall shrub reaching a height of three to four metres in our New England garden. Flowers are well displayed and the fruits are an interesting feature. The wide-leafed form does tend to become a trifle straggly. The narrow-leaved form is a tidier plant. This does not matter, in our garden, as both forms are incorporated in dense shrubberies.
We grow many Hakea species but have found that our visiting Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos attack the fruits of Hakea eriantha in preference to any other species.
It is best grown in full sun to some shade with some room to spread out, on a well-drained soil.
Propagation is by seed. We find that the narrow-leaved form comes true to type when germinated from seed.
Hakea is a genus of about 150 species of plants that are endemic to Australia, first described in 1788 by Joseph Gaertner, a German botanist. NSW currently has about 31 species, some which are species-complex.
Hakeas are similar to species of Grevillea but are distinguished from them in having persistent, woody fruits. Those of grevilleas are not persistent and not woody.
The fruit of Hakea spp. generally persist on plants until burned in a bushfire or until the plant dies. The fruit then splits open to release two winged seeds. This species likely regenerate from seed.
Hakea – named after Baron Christian Ludwig von Hake (Baron von Hake of Hanover, 1745-1818), an 18th-century German patron of botany (and for whom not a lot of information can be found).
eriantha – from Ancienty Greek erion (εριον) meaning “wool” and anthos (άνθος) meaning “flowers” referring to the hairs on the flowers.
This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.
NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Hakea eriantha profile page https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Hakea~eriantha
Plants of South Eastern New South Wales – LUCID Plant Profiles Online – Hakea eriantha profile page https://apps.lucidcentral.org/plants_se_nsw/text/entities/hakea_eriantha.htm