Did you have a guess at what the curiosity shot was? It's a Banksia Integrifolia flower spike, commonly known as a coast or coastal banksia. The banksia is another amazing Australian native and comes in many different colours and varieties. This coastal banksia was on the shore edge of the beach we went to on Sunday and also Monday's beach.
Above is how the flower spike looks as the flower is developing. If you look carefully at the top of the young flower spike below you will notice some of the many hundreds of tiny individual flowers at various stages of growing out from the main woody axis.
Mostly these flower spikes point directly up (as below) but sometimes they can be curved (above).
The photo above shows a typical banksia flower spike and also the silvery-grey underside of the leaves. To me it appears to be a very strong and handsome/regal looking flower. It lasts quite a long time when cut and is great for floral arrangements (but I wouldn't cut any from the beachside).
The photo above is taken looking directly down onto a flower spike, still in bud. You can just see the edge of an open flower spike beside it. The individual flowers open very quickly, starting at the base of the flower spike, with as many as 390 springing open within 24 hours. I've not actually noticed this process but am keen to look out for it next time I'm around a banksia tree.
Over several months the flower parts wither and drop off, leaving the "cone" with several follicles which then mature and release one or two seeds each. In the "cone" above I think we may have a couple of seed wings protruding from a follicle near the top on the left-hand side.
Here you can see many stages of the flower occurring at the same time. The coast banksia is quite common and widespread along the east coast of Australia. Wikipedia states that the coast banksia is one of the four original banksia species collected by Sir Joseph Banks in 1770 as he accompanied Captain James Cook on his voyage of discovery along Australia's east coast.
The coast banksia is a very hardy tree growing to about 25 m high and will grown well in a variety of environments. Maybe I should try one in our yard. This photo was taken Monday as we were whale watching. I've often admired the banksia flowers but never really looked too closely. I've really enjoyed looking more closely at my photos and taking the time to research a little about these wonderful Australian natives.
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