GREEN THUMB: Ignite childhood memories this spring
ONCE upon a time all children would have known about the Big Bad Banksia Men who terrorised the gumnut babies Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, in May Gibbs' children's stories about Australian bush creatures.
The Big Bad Banksia Men are none other than the seed cones of the impressive wallum ecosystem banksias, banksia serrata and banksia aemula, in the plant family proteaceae (pronounced pro-tee-ay-see).
These wallum banksias are remarkable plants in many ways, particularly the eye-catching, large, pale-green flower spikes that appear just before spring and provide energy-rich nectar for parrots and honeyeaters, which are preparing to start nesting and raising young.
The sturdy stems can support Australia's very large honeyeaters, such as friarbirds and wattlebirds.
When the seeds develop, they are protected by massive seed capsules.
Only large, strong birds such as black cockatoos can prise them open.
An important stimulus for the mature seed pods to open naturally is fire, with smoke and ash being important cues for germination of seeds.
Wallum banksias have another special feature that allows them to survive in the poor, sandy soils behind the coastal dunes of Southeast Queensland and Northern NSW.
Close to the soil's surface, they have specialised proteoid roots, which can efficiently extract the smallest amounts of phosphorus and other nutrients that are left in thedroppings of feeding birds.
Besides banksias, wallum heathlands support a verylarge and diverse rangeof spring-flowering plants.
The Fraser Coast has large areas of wallum at Burrum Heads and Toogoomand coastal areas such as Poona and Tinnanbar, south of Maryborough.
Treat yourself to a walk in the wallum this spring and discover what your backyard has to offer.