As I was exploring the Wellington Botanic Garden today I had a chance encounter with a very unusual tree. Near the Lady Norwood Rose Garden I met a Banksia integrifolia or Banksia on a steeply sloped hillside. The first thing I noticed were the unusual seed pods, or woody cones that were persistent all over the tree. They have such an interesting shape and are covered with valves that are like little mouths that are open or closed. The leaves were distinctive with their narrow elliptical shape and serrate margins. And then I saw the bark which is full of texture and I knew I had to find a seed and try and grow this little beauty back home. I was hesitant to pluck anything off a tree in a botanical garden, but luckily I found an old cone on the ground nearby. Almost all of the valves were closed on the one I found, I might have to burn it to release the seeds. A bit of research showed that this small tree is native to Australia and is named after the English botanist Sir Joseph Banks. The flowers form cylindrical cones in May, June and July (winter) and are pale green or yellow. They appear to be an important nectar source for birds during this time of the year. There are several Banskia species in New Zealand, all from the family Protoaceae. It is supposed to be fairly hardy, growing in all soil types and can even tolerate a short amount of freezing weather. I hope I can make it home with a seed!