Grevillea 'Boongala Spinebill'


Family: Proteaceae

A spreading to weeping shrub, to 2.5 metres high by 3 metres wide. It can be dense and bushy and the new growth is a copper-red colour.

It has originated from a seedling which emerged in the nursery of ‘Boongala’ owned by the late Sid Cadwell, which he operated in the 1960s near Annangrove, New South Wales. It is the progeny of G. bipinnatifida x G. caleyi.

The cultivar was popular and widely grown on the east coast of Australia between 1970 and 1990 but it then went out of favour in the 1990s (likely replaced with other cultivars). It has undergone a revival and may be able to be sourced from wholesale nurseries.

Leaves to 120 mm long, overall shape is oblong to linear; however the leaf is regularly strongly toothed / dissected – resembling a fern-leaf or fish-spine (strongly pinnatisect).

A grevillea inflorescence is technically a cluster of paired flowers, termed a conflorescence with the overall structure forming a raceme-like appearance.

Grevillea species exhibit 3 main inflorescence structures:
1. A cylindrical to ovoid raceme (with flowers emerging around a 360° radius)
2. A single-sided raceme (with flowers produced on only one side, resembling a tooth-brush)
3. A condensed or clustered raceme (usually as long as it is wide, with species referred to as the spider-flowers)

This is one of the tooth-brush types, with inflorescences to 80 mm long, dark pink-red to red in colour. They are produced most of year but late Spring to Summer; is their peak flowering. The flower buds are grey and hairy – adding much contrast.

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 cultivar, carpels are about 4 cm long, and red / dark pink-red with deeper red tips. Perianths are covered in grey-silky hairs.

In the garden

This author has been growing this plant for years. However, the spread of the plant to 3 metres was unexpected and, as a consequence, it became crowded-out by adjacent plants.

For this plant to grow at its best it needs to be a feature shrub so the long arching branches and flowers are shown at its best. It will grow in dappled light, but not colour up or flower as good as if grown in full sun. Can be grown on a sandy to clay soil, provided drainage is adequate.

Overall, a great tough plant with attractive foliage and flowers. Reported to withstand frost to -8 degrees C. It is drought tolerant as well.


Must be propagated from cuttings to retain ‘true to type’ form. Grevilleas are propagated by three principal methods; seed, cuttings and grafting. To maintain desirable characteristics of a particular plant, vegetative propagation (e.g. cuttings or grafting) must be used. This also applies to propagation of named cultivars.

Other information

This cultivar also goes by the name of Grevillea ‘Bronwyn Cleaves’.

Grevillea is a diverse genus of about 360 species of evergreen flowering plants native to rainforest and more open habitats in Australia, New Guinea, New Caledonia, Sulawesi and other Indonesian islands east of the Wallace Line. NSW currently has about 85 species although with a lot of subspecies and some informal taxa recognised.

Grevillea flowers were a traditional favourite among Aborigines for their sweet nectar. This could be shaken onto the hand to enjoy, or into a coolamon with a little water to make a sweet drink. They might be referred to as the original “bush lollies”

Grevillea – was named in honour of Charles Francis Greville (1749-1809), an 18th-century patron of botany and co-founder of the Royal Horticultural Society. He was also a British antiquarian, collector and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1774 to 1790.

‘Boongala Spinebill’ – likely named for the nursery where it arose near Dural (Sydney) NSW, as well as the plant’s ability to attract honey-eating birds.

Australian National Botanic Gardens – Australian Cultivar Registration Authority –                        Grevillea ‘Boongala Spinebill’ profile page

Gardening Australia – Boongala Segment – Series 18 Episode 01

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 Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke