Persoonia linearis

Narrow-leaved Geebung

Family: Proteaceae

A common shrub in NSW, mainly on the coast and tablelands, growing to 5 metres tall by about 1 to 2 metres wide.

It extends north to the Macleay River in NSW, on the coast and tablelands and extends south, to the central western slopes, through the southern tablelands and south coast into Victoria. It is typically found in dry sclerophyll forests and woodlands, on ridges and mid-slopes, on sandstone soils as well as other soil landscapes such as conglomerates.

The bark is flaky and papery, dark-grey to black on the top and red-pink below, almost with the texture of crepe paper. The new growth is hairy.

The leaves are linear in shape, to 9 cm in length and almost to 1 cm wide, with slightly down-rolled margins. Leaf width can vary from 1 mm to 8 mm, between populations.

Persoonia flowers are typically produced either solitarily, or, in a raceme-like arrangement which can grow on into a leafy shoot. The flower structure is very similar to genera such as Hakea and Grevillea; a perianth of 4 tepals (either sepals or petals) is at the base, 4 stamens which rise above the perianth (the anther bases can be fused to the tepals or free), surrounding one carpel (female part); almost always yellow in colour.

In this species, flowers are yellow, each to 15 mm long, more or less fused at the base, sparsely to densely hairy. Flowers from December to May.

Fruit are smooth fleshy drupes, green and more or less round, measuring to 1.5 cm in diameter. Mature drupes may have purple blotches. Each drupe has one or two seeds within a woody ‘stone’.

In the garden

A useful plant for gardens with a nice form. It is a fairly easy plant to grow in but is rarely seen due to difficulties in propagation. Its red flaky bark is an attractive feature.

The author has been growing his plant since the 1990s in his Sydney suburban garden. The plant ‘came up’ from a seed, in exactly the right place that was in a delivery of local sandstone-derived leaf litter he obtained.

It is a hardy plant that does not receive additional watering in dry spells and is long lived.

Plants may be difficult to source in nurseries but worth trying if tubestock can be found.


Generally difficult from seed or cuttings and seed needs to be scarified and sown as soon as fresh. Propagation of Persoonia species is becoming more common in nurseries and working with the seeds has attracted many amateur attempts, but with large amounts of resulting frustration.

There is advice that the outer fruit coating (the exocarp) needs to be clipped to open it up, and then the seed put into a solution containing the plant propagation hormone GA (Giberellic Acid) for several hours to days. This will trigger the seed to germinate.

Other techniques include putting fruits in a bag with potting mix for 12 months and storing in a glass house / propagation shed, then clean and sand the fruits and then sow, with germination taking another 6 months (information from Sutherland Shire Bushcare).

Other information

Persoonia is a genus of about one hundred species, all of which are endemic to Australia.

It is reported that the fruit can be eaten raw or cooked, succulent but astringent. The fruit has a sweet fibrous pulp that is fixed to one large seed. It tastes somewhat like sweet cotton wool and is relished by First Nations Peoples of Australia.

The term ‘geebung’ is derived from the Dharug language word geebung, while the Wiradjuri term was jibbong.

This species hybridises occasionally with Persoonia chamaepeuce, Persoonia lanceolata, Persoonia levis, Persoonia mollis subsp. caleyi, Persoonia mollis subsp. ledifolia, Persoonia mollis subsp. leptophylla, Persoonia mollis subsp. livens, Persoonia mollis subsp. mollis, Persoonia pinifolia and Persoonia sericea.

This species can regenerate vegetatively after fire from basal-trunk areas.

Persoonia is a genus of about 100 hundred species, all endemic to Australia, occurring in all states and territories. NSW currently has around 51 species – some of which are species complex with many subspecies taxa, and some which are threatened with extinction.

Persoonia – named after Christiaan Hendrik Persoon (1761-1836), a South African botanist and mycologist who is most well-known for describing mushroom species. The genus was named in his honour by James Edward Smith (1759-1828), an English botanist and founder of the Linnean Society.

linearis – Latin – having narrow or ‘linear’ leaves.

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

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

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 – Persoonia linearis profile page https://finder.growingillawarranatives.org/plants/plant/373

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke