Hakea teretifolia

Dagger Hakea, Needle bush

Family: Proteaceae

A rigid shrub to 4 metres tall, usually with a narrow untidy spread to about 1 or 2 metres.

It is common in sandy heathlands and shrublands in coastal eastern Australia from northern NSW (South West Rocks), south along the coast (just extending into the tablelands) through to Victoria and Tasmania.

The new growth has white hairs. Leaf alternating up the stems, often crowded and almost plastic-like, to 8 cm long and 0.2 cm in diameter, rigid and needle-like / tubular (acicular-terete) with sharp tips, very prickly.

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 in very small clusters, with clusters located closely, in the leaf axils, with up to 8 flowers per cluster, to 20 mm long by 10 mm wide, cream-white to yellow in colour, primarily from September to February.

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 about 1 cm long, cream to yellow and the perianths about 5 mm long, also cream to yellow.

The woody follicle has a distinctive and different appearance as far as most hakeas go, to 30 mm long and to 10 mm wide, finely black-warty or smooth, dark brown-streaked, tapering into a long beak, lacking horns. It has a tri-pointed dagger-like shape – which provides the basis for the common name.

In the garden

This species is rarely cultivated and not overly popular. It is extremely prickly and also an untidy plant, However, the boons are there it is easy to grow in a sunny position and it is tolerant of poor drainage. It will likely do best on a sandy soil.

It can flower profusely and the woody follicles are also very attractive.

When planted in clumps, this species provides an excellent shelter for small birds such as Superb Fairy-wrens (Malurus superbus) and the smaller-sized Honey-eaters. Excellent barrier plant to block off areas. It could be pruned to encourage a tighter more desirable shape. There are some coastal forms that form very dense rounded-shrubs.

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.


From seed which is available commercially.

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.

This plant can produce a lignotuber and so can regenerate vegetatively after fire. Likely also regenerates from seed bank.

There are two subspecies currently recognised in NSW:

  • H. teretifolia subsp. teretifolia – occurring further south from the Sydney region through to Tasmania with a separate population in the Grampians in western Victoria. The flowers have densely pubescent and flat hairs.
  • H. teretifolia subsp. hirsuta – occurring from Coffs Harbour south through the Sydney region to the Budawang Range in New South Wales. The flowers have erect raised hairs with a different texture.

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).

teretifolia – Latin – ‘terete‘ meaning ‘cylindrical’ or ’rounded-off’ and  ‘folia’ – leaves, referring to the cylindrical / terete leaves of the species.

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

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

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

Wikipedia – Hakea teretifolia profile page                        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hakea_teretifolia

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke