Text and images by Warren Sheather
Since the Armidale Group of the Australian Plant Society came into being over 30 years ago there has been a huge increase in the range of native plants in cultivation on the Northern Tablelands of NSW. Thanks mainly to the efforts of group members, plants from almost every region of Australia are now grown in local gardens. Many species from Western Australia are now commonplace in our gardens. The Plant of the Month for May, Hakea petiolaris, is one of these successful 'western' introductions.
Hakea petiolaris, the Sea Urchin Hakea, is a tall, upright shrub. The large leaves are ovate or egg-shaped, up to 10cm long, grey and leathery. Juvenile leaves are almost translucent.
Flowers are presented in globular clusters and carried in leaf axils. Some clusters also appear on old wood. Buds are pink and cream. Flowers are initially cream ageing to maroon. The appearance of the flower clusters has given rise to the common name. Blooms are rich in nectar and attract honeyeaters. At Yallaroo, flowering extends from April to August.
The flowers are followed by clusters of woody fruits. They are ovoid and have a long, curved beak. Each fruit contains two winged seeds.
Seeds germinate readily and cuttings are reputed to strike easily. Plants grown from seed take about three years to mature.
Plants will accept light pruning but we have found that pruning is not necessary.
The Sea Urchin Hakea could be grown as a tall screen or a specimen shrub. Bird-friendly gardens would also benefit from the inclusion of this hardy, free-flowering native plant.
Hakea petiolaris comes from the south-west corner of Western Australia. There are three (3) subspecies. Botanically they are different but horticulturally they are very similar.