Grevillea

grevillea-supurb-landscapePraised by Aborigines for their sweet nectar, the Grevillea’s are one of Australia’s most popular gardening plants.

The members of the Grevillea genus belong to the Proteaceae family of flowering plants. This family was named after the Greek god Proteus, who could change his shape at will.  Just like him, this family offers a wide variety of forms, colors and sizes. There are 360 Grevillea species that range from small shrubs to large trees. These evergreen plants are native to Australia, Indonesia and New Guinea. Their distinctive, brightly colored flowers in red, orange or yellow, have no petals. The flowers come in three forms: spider-like, toothbrush-like and in the form of brushes. Rich in nectar, they attract animals, birds and insect that serve as pollinators. [1]

Grevilleas require regular pruning in order to enhance plant growth and to produce new flowers. They should be planted in light, gritty soil with good drainage because they are prone to root rot. It is of extreme importance to use a fertilizer that doesn’t contain phosphates, especially on Western Australian species. They grow best in sunny and dry locations and can tolerate mild frost and drought. [2]

grevillea-robyn-gordonThanks to their breeding talents, horticulturists are able to develop hybrids with any desired attributes. The most popular hybrids, originating from Queensland are “Robyn Gordon”, “Superb” and “Peaches and Cream”. They bloom all year around in a wide range of soils and climates but prefer sunny locations. With dazzling red flowers and alluring foliage, “Robyn Gordon” is the Queen of Grevilleas. Sadly, this bushy shrub can only be admired from a distance. Some compounds in the leaves can cause skin irritation and contact dermatitis.  [3]

Grevillea robusta also known as silk-oak is a deciduous tree with yellow to orange flowers and podlike fruits. It is mostly grown as an ornamental tree in Africa and Southeast Asia. Recent studies have shown that this plant is rich in vitamin C, rutin and aluminum. Like other Grevillea species, it contains allergens that can cause dermatitis. This plant has been used by Kenya natives as medicine, to treat flu, sore throat and toothache. Other cultures use the wood for making furniture and the leaves for dyeing silk. [4]

Many Aboriginal tribes used Grevillea plants in their traditional medicine. They made a paste of the bark which was used to heal wounds, skin sores and earache. Queensland Aborigines used the sap from Grevillea striata as a cement in the making of axes and spears. Recently, from this plant were isolated phenolic compounds with possible cardiovascular activity.

Grevillea-pteridifoliaGrevillea pteridifolia is also native to Australia and grows in warm climates and well-drained soils. She was used by early settlers for stuffing pillows and as a cooking spice. Today it is known that she contains compounds with antibacterial properties.

The aborigines used to drink nectar directly from the flower or by putting the flower in water in order to dissolve the nectar and to produce sweet drink. Today, it is not advisable to drink nectar since some species produce cyanide. [5]