Hakea purpurea

Family: Proteaceae

Hakea purpurea is a rigid, upright shrub that may reach a height of 3 metres, spreading to about 2 metres wide.

It has a very rare occurrence in NSW, only found in one part of the state, between Yetman and the Queensland border. It is common in Queensland, spreading from here, north and north-west to west of Rockhampton (around Jericho).

It tends to be found on upper slopes in dry sclerophyll woodland and shrubland, mostly in sandy soil.

The majority of leaves are either forked or divided into three segments; undivided leaves tubular and linear to 10 cm long by about 0.1 cm wide, with divided leaves also having tubular segments to 10 cm long, 0.1 cm wide and spreading over about 5 cm width. All leaf-terminals have pointed tips.

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, vivid purple to purplish-red flowers are carried in clusters, to about 3 cm across, in the leaf axils, up to 30 flowers per cluster, produced from winter to 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 and carpels are purple to purplish-red, with the perianth to about 10 mm long and the carpels to 30 mm long.

The woody follicles are ovoid, to 40 mm long by 15 mm wide, glabrous with only a minor beak.

In the garden

A species that is known to be cultivated and is very attractive. It is reported to be hardy in the right location. Can be grown on a range of soils in full sun with reliable drainage.

Author’s notes:

Our specimen certainly attracts plenty of attention, during the flowering season, from both human and avian visitors.

Our specimen has proved to be hardy, frost resistant and free flowering. Once established the species has low water requirements.

It is one of the most attractive east-side hakeas to grow.


Propagate from seed. We have yet to try cutting propagation.

Other information

The type specimen was collected by Thomas Mitchell along the Warrego River near Mount Franklin, Queensland in 1846.

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).

purpurea – Latin meaning ‘purple’ – referring to the sometimes-purplish tones of the flowers.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild. It is very rare in NSW.

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

Australian Native Plants Society Australia (ANPSA) – Hakea purpurea profile page https://anpsa.org.au/plant_profiles/hakea-purpurea

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