Hakea macraeana

Willow Needlewood, Macrae's Hakea

Family: Proteaceae

Hakea macraeana, the Willow Needlewood, is a rounded plant that will develop into a tall shrub or small tree reaching 10 metres potentially by 5 meters or more wide, with a graceful and willowy growth habit, likely not possessing a lignotuber.

It occurs mostly on the southern tablelands and south coast of NSW, south from Suzzex Inlet, as far west as the Braidwood-Bombala line, down to the Victorian border. It just occurs in Victoria, in the north-east corner where just one plant has been found!. It is listed as critically endangered in this state. It is thought that seed may have washed down the Genoa River.

There are old records of it occurring near Dorrigo in northern NSW (quite a disjunction) but it seems these are more likely to be Hakea ochroptera.

It is found on rocky sites in dry sclerophyll woodland and shrubland, usually on higher ground.

Leaves are bright green, terete (circular cross-section), to 150 mm long and only 1 mm wide, tipped with a sharp point; dark green in colour.

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 up to 6 are carried in axillary clusters, about 3 cm across, covering the branches during the flowering period that extends from August to October.

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 perianths are white and up to about 8 mm long, the carpels are also white and to 15 mm long.

The follicles are woody, persistent, ovate and covered in warty lumps, to 40 mm long by 25 mm wide, holding two winged-seeds.

In the garden

This species could be cultivated as attractive stand alone specimens or hedge plants. It is known to be cultivated and can be a nice plant in the right spot. Plants are known to suffer in overly wet periods.

Plant in a sunny spot, allowing plenty of room for growth, on a soil with good drainage.


Propagate both species from seed and possibly cuttings.

Other information

Hakea macraeana and Hakea ochroptera are similar species. The latter species was once included in Hakea macreana. Botanically there are some differences. Hakea macraeana seeds have dark grey wings whilst H. ochroptera has seeds with pale wings. There are also differences in the hairiness of the flowers.

Although botanically there are these differences we feel that horticulturally both species are identical. Visually they have the same growth habit, foliage, flowers and fruit.

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 regenerates from seed after fire.

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).

macraeana – named after George McCrae – who reportedly collected the first specimen near Braidwood and sent it to Ferdinand von Mueller.

This plant is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild in NSW. It is listed as critically endangered in Victoria where one plant occurs (or at least used to occur).

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

Plants of South Eastern New South Wales – Lucid Online Website – Hakea macraeana profile page https://apps.lucidcentral.org/plants_se_nsw/text/entities/hakea_macraeana.htm

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