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What is Grevillea?

Alex Paul
Alex Paul

Grevillea is the name given to a range of different species of plants. All the species contained within the grevillea genus are evergreen, flowering plants. These plants are found in a number of places around the world including Australia and New Caledonia. The size and shape of plants contained within the grevillea genus range greatly from small shrubs to tall trees. In total there are more than 350 species in the family and many are used as garden decorations.

Originally the group of plants was named after Charles Greville — a British collector who lived in the 1700s. There are several common names for the genus. These are toothbrush, Spider Flower and Silky Oak. All the plants are part of the Proteaceae family, and all but five are native to Australia.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Traditionally the plants were used for nectar by native Australians. This nectar was either eaten directly or diluted with water as a drink. Even so, some species of the plant are toxic to drink so it is not recommended for people who aren’t trained to know the difference between safe and poisonous plants in the family.

Smaller plants from within the grevillea genus are commonly used in gardens. As long as the climate is temperate then the plants will often flourish and hence they are popular in Australian gardens. There are many examples of species that have been selectively bred for certain attributes. For example, one small grevillea plant has been bred to flower all year round in certain climates.

There are many other grevillea plants which have been cultivated in order to have beautiful flowers or a specific type of foliage. This is largely due to the fact that the species of plant, in general, is extremely easy to cultivate and hence can be bred for a number of attributes. Plants for the garden can usually be grown using either the seed or from cuttings of the tip. In some cases grafting the plant onto a rock surface may be required depending on the species.

Although the vast majority of the plants are native to Australia there are several that are found in other places. For example, there are two which are endemic to New Guinea and Sulawesi and three to New Caledonia. Two species of the plant can be found in both Australia and New Guinea. There are, however, 350 species that are endemic to Australia.

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      Woman with a flower