Hakea salicifolia

Willow-leaved Hakea

Family: Proteaceae

A large shrub (small tree) up to 8 metres tall, by several metres wide.

It grows naturally in wet sclerophyll forest and rainforest edges, as well as swamp-sclerophyll forests close to the coast. It grows mainly along the NSW coast, extending into the tablelands, north from around Milton, extending up the coast into south-east Queensland (with a few records on the central and northern western slopes). It does have a habit of naturalising in some habitats where it does not originally belong, through widespread cultivation.

Terminal branches are smooth with dark red ribs.

Leaves are narrowly elliptic to lanceolate, widest in the middle, up to 12 cm long and to 2 cm wide, tapering to a point or occasionally rounded at the apex, pale green, occasionally bluish-green with a powdery film.

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, the inflorescences occur as clusters in the leaf axils, with up to 30 flowers per cluster, to 20 mm long by 30 mm across, cream-white in colour, primarily from late 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 carpels are to 7 mm long, white-cream in colour. The perianths are also white-cream.

The woody follicle is egg-shaped to 4 cm long and 3 cm wide, narrowing gradually to a slightly upturned beak with small horns. The fruit surface is covered with black blister-like warts which make it quite distinctive for identification.

In the garden

This species has been in cultivation for many years and is commonly planted as a small, bushy tree. It is a popular street tree in some areas. It is not a spectacular species but usually forms a neat, compact plant. Large shrubs can be trained to have an overall dome-shape.

The species has been cultivated over a range of climates and is especially successful in temperate and sub-tropical areas. It is suited to a range of well-drained soils and is best grown in an open, sunny position. Give some room to spread out and provide some strategic pruning to get the best out of it. It could be intermingled with different layers of shrubbery for a nice result.

It has a tendency to naturalise in some habitats where it is not usually a part, such as drier sandstone creeklines and disturbed bushland remnants, so exercise caution and be considerate when planting.

Hakeas are popular ornamental plants in gardens in Australia, and in many locations are as common as grevilleas and banksias. Several hybrids and cultivars have been developed, including ‘Burrendong Beauty’. They are best grown in beds of light soil, which are watered but still well-drained.


Is easily grown from seed which does not require any pre-treatment. Cuttings are also successful. Seed is commercially available.

Other information

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.

H. salicifolia was previously known as H. saligna.

Regenerates from seed after fire, sometimes quite prolifically.

There are two subspecies currently recognised in NSW:

  • Hakea salicifolia subsp. salicifolia that has leaves more than 7 mm wide and grows on the coast and ranges from Springbrook, Queensland to Jervis Bay, New South Wales;
  • Hakea salicifolia subsp. angustifolia that has leaves 4 to 7 mm wide and grows near water courses between Hornsby and Helensburgh in the Sydney region.

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).

salicifolia – Latin referring to Salix, the willow genus and folium meaning ‘leaf’, referring to the willow-like leaves of the species.

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

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

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

Growing Illawarra Natives – Hakea salicifolia profile page https://finder.growingillawarranatives.org/plants/plant/256

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke