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Grevillea parallela Knight 1809
pronounced: grev-ILL-ee-uh par-ah-LELL-uh
(Proteacrae — the waratah family)
common name: Silver Oak
Grevillea was named for Charles Francis Greville (1749–1809), a close friend of Sir Joseph Banks, and one of the founders of the Royal Horticultural Society; parallela is from the Latin parallelus, and refers to the parallel veins on the leaves.
The first Grevillea were collected by Banks and Solander in Botany Bay on 28th April, 1770. They then collected three more during their stay in what is now Cooktown, when Endeavour was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef. Among these were Grevillea parallela.
Grevilleae are members of the Proteaceae family. Protea was a Greek god who had the ability to change his form, and the flowers and leaves of the members of this genus have a wonderful variety in the shapes of the flowers and the leaves. Grevillea parallela is native across northern tropical Australia, the area extending south in central Queensland almost to Roma. It is a tall shrub or small tree, 2.5–15 m high, with pendant foliage. The bark is dark, hard and conspicuously furrowed. The leaves are long and narrow, tapering to the base, dull green above, silky-hairy with longitudinal veins below, 10–40 cm long and 2–10 mm broad. The leaves may occasionally be divided into up to 6 narrow lobes. Variation in the length of the leaves also affects the general appearance of the tree. The branches are slender, some ascending, with the ends decidedly drooping. The cream to white flowers are perfumed, waxy, crowded and borne in cylindrical racemes forming a crowded terminal panicle. The flowers are rich nectar producers, and attract many birds. Two broadly winged seeds are produced in a rounded follicle.
Grevillea flowers were a traditional favourite among Aborigines for their sweet nectar. This could be shaken on to the hand to enjoy, or into a coolamon with a little water to make a sweet drink. They also made a drink from the roots of Grevillea nematophylla, used to sustain them on desert crossings. Another drink was made by soaking the flowers in water. A paste was made by mashing the bark of certain Grevilleae, and this was used to treat earache, spear wounds, skin sores, and even rubbed on women’s breasts to induce lactation. The paste was also used for tribal markings. The gum of Grevillea striata was used as a cement for attaching flints to axes and spears.
Silver Oak doesn’t grow as large as Silky Oak, and has a darker timber. The dense pink-brown heartwood is strongly figured, and some pieces are quite spectacular. It is used by wood turners, but has the disadvantage of a high resin content that makes it difficult to finish. Sandpaper clogs badly, and the resin continues to ooze from the endgrain long after an item is finished.
The study of Grevilleae has proved fascinating to botanists, and a great deal of work has been done on them, particularly on the many species found in Western Australia. In the book Flora Australiensis, which was published by George Bentham between 1863 and 1878, and was to remain the standard work on the Australian flora for over 100 years, he listed 156 species, and more have been discovered since. Many cultivars have also been developed.
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographs taken in Birt Street, Picnic Bay, 2008, 2009
Page last updated 9th December 2016