Grevillea Robusta Silky Oak

Silky Oak

  • Common name Silky Oak
  • Botanical name Grevilla robusta
  • Family Proteaceae
  • Natural range East coast Australia
  • Mature height to 25m
  • Form Tall and upright with a  bushy crown
  • Likes Sunny position and well-drained soil
  • Dislikes Not much
  • Where to plant Useful bird-attractant
  • Known for Golden summer flowers
Why Does the Silky Oak Light Up the Australian East Coast?

As mid-summer descends upon the Australian east coast, the landscape is set ablaze with the fiery orange-gold flowers of the Silky Oak trees. Standing tall against the backdrop of the more subdued local gum trees, these natives stage a captivating display. The abundant nectar these vibrant blooms produce draws in a wide variety of local nectar-loving birds and insects, adding to the summer spectacle.

What is the Origin of the Grevillea Robusta

Far from being related to the well-known Oaks of Europe and the Americas, the Grevillea robusta, or the Silky Oak, is a proud native of the eastern coastal regions of Australia. These trees have adapted to flourish near rivers and dependable water sources.

As part of the diverse family of Grevilleas, the Silky Oak is one among 360 species spread across Indonesia and Australia. The unique flowers of these plants lack traditional petals. Instead, they display a long tubular structure known as a “calyx,” which splits into four lobes.

The term “robusta” in its botanical name hints at the impressive strength of its timber. Freshly split Silky Oak wood boasts a smooth texture and a pattern that mirrors that of English oak, which is the inspiration behind its common name.

Did You Know These Interesting Facts About the Silky Oak?

One fascinating feature of the Silky Oak, shared with other Grevilleas, is its content of tridecyl resorcinol. This compound can trigger an allergic reaction leading to contact dermatitis in some individuals. Luckily, many people remain unaffected, but repeated exposure to Grevillea species can lead to the development of an allergy, especially in case of garden or shrub varieties like ‘Robyn Gordon’ and ‘Fuchsia Grevillea.’

Although technically an evergreen, many Silky Oaks exhibit semi-deciduous traits, shedding most of their foliage just before flowering. This characteristic might make them a tad messy for the home gardener, but their stunning floral displays more than make up for this slight inconvenience.

Pruning Advice

Silky Oaks, like many trees, can greatly benefit from formative pruning in their early years. By paying a little attention at the right time, you can shape a safe and visually appealing tree that could potentially stand tall in your garden for 150 years or more. With the correct care and attention, your Silky Oak can become an enduring centerpiece of your outdoor space, offering shade, beauty, and a safe haven for nectar-loving wildlife.

Interesting Facts About the Silky Oak
  1. These trees can live for more than 150 years.
  2. Despite their name, they are not related to the oaks found in Europe and the Americas.
  3. They belong to the Grevillea family, which includes about 360 species across Indonesia and Australia.

Further Reading

  1. Silky Oak on the Australian Native Plant Society Website
  2. Growing and Caring for Silky Oak
  3. Grevillea Robusta in the Australian National Botanic Gardens
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