Guide Ursula’s plant of the month for May

Grevillea wickhamii (holly leaf or Wickham’s grevillea) is an unusual, very hardy and distinctive shrub or erect spindly tree with smooth bark and holly-like leaves. The six sub-species accepted by the Australian Plant Census can vary from 1-6 metres tall. It grows naturally in Northern West Australia and west Queensland.

The beautiful, showy flowers, which can be red, pink, orange or yellow, are arranged in leaf axils (the junction of the leaf and stem) or on the stems in down-curved clusters. The flowers appear mainly in May to August, some also in December or even all year. The plants have broad holly-shaped leaves with 2-7 shallow teeth near the tip of the leaf.

This plant was named after John Clements Wickham who was born in Scotland in 1798 and entered the Royal Navy College in February 1812. In 1831 he was appointed as second in command of HMS Beagle during its second survey mission which circumnavigated the Earth from 1831 to 1836. The passengers included the young and unpaid naturalist, Charles Darwin, who became John’s good friend and cabin-mate. He nicknamed Darwin “Flycatcher” due to his numerous insect specimens. In a later trip it was Wickham who named Port Darwin before Charles Darwin became famous.

Grevillea wickhamii prefers rocky, well-drained soils in full sun. Although highly sought after for parks, rockeries or gardens, it’s rarely seen in cultivation. However, you can see it in Kings Park! Have a look in the desert garden along the Lottery West Federation Walkway or ask your friendly Guide on a guided tour or in the Visitor Information Centre.