A BANKSIA found along Waterfall Way and on the eastern edge of the Northern Tablelands above the Nambucca Valley has been declared a distinct species on the back of some determined research by postgraduate student Margaret Stimpson.
The hard work by Ms Stimpson, a botany student at the University of New England, has won the plant classification as Banksia neoanglica.
The spectacular flowering plant had until now been classified as a variety of the Hairpin Banksia (B. spinulosa).
But the evidence presented by Ms Stimpson was so compelling that her paper for the online international journal PhytoKeys was accepted and published in about two months. Her name will now be forever associated in the taxonomic literature with that of the species she established – “the New England Banksia”, B. neoanglica Stimpson & J.J. Bruhl.
The New England Banksia is largely restricted to the eastern edge of the New England Tablelands, and is common in places along Waterfall Way (the main road linking Bellingen to Armidale.
“I love the Proteaceae – the family of flowering plants that includes the Banksia and Grevillea genera in Australia and Protea in South Africa,” Ms Stimpson said.
“Surprisingly, molecular evidence in recent years has shown the family’s closest relatives are the Sacred Lotus and the plane trees. Species of Banksia survive in poor soil and still manage to produce marvellous flowers.”
Her definitive publication – Stimpson et al: “First instalment in resolution of the Banksia spinulosa complex (Proteaceae): B. Neoanglica, a new species supported by phenetic analysis, ecology and geography”, PhytoKeys 14, 57-80 – is available at
.She wrote the paper in collaboration with Ian Telford and Professor Jeremy Bruhl, both from the NCW Beadle Herbarium at Armidale, and Dr Peter Weston from the National Herbarium of NSW.
Ms Stimpson’s first project as an undergraduate student of botany at UNE was on the Proteaceae, and she’s been collecting specimens ever since. Now working towards enrolling in a doctoral degree program, she said: “There’s a whole heap of Banksias out there that I believe are entitled to species rank, although people have been trying to lump them together for the past 200 years. This initial success has made me hungry to solve these problems before I finish my PhD.”
She established the species rank of the New England Banksia by detailed studies of its leaves, flowers, stem and fruit, and considerations of its ecology and distribution. She explained that it has two growth forms, the more common being a multi-stemmed small shrub with many flowers but few seeds. This form occurs where there has been regular burning, and the seeds need exposure to fire to open.
The less common form, found where burning has not occurred, is a single-stemmed tree with many flowers and many seeds that open spontaneously without exposure to fire.