Aussie slang: Banksia Men

Depending on how you were raised, you may or may not know about Banksia Men – but be assured they were quite real to me as a young child and I would be extra careful to watch for them when I was out walking with my Mum.


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Meaning: Banksia Men are the woody cone of the Banksia plant and are named after a character in May Gibb’s classic Australian children’s stories, ‘Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’.



The first book was published in 1918 and follows the adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie; who are gumnut babies (gumnuts are the nuts from eucalyptus trees).


How to use it: Banksia Men are the main villains of the books and are always referred to as ‘Bad Banksia Men’. You would use it in reference to a particularly evil looking banksia cone – but since I live in Canada these days, I like to use it occasionally on a rough looking pine cone!


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This is your typical banksia cone that you’re likely to come across – they grow abundantly throughout Australia, and are inclined to drop on your head when walking in the bush.



Gibbs added eyes and other facial features to create her ‘Bad Banksia Men’.


Examples: I like to use it the way my Mum does, as a warning – ‘Watch out for the Bad Banksia Men’.



Let’s face it, given the number of potentially dangerous animals in the Australian bush, watching out while you’re walking around is sound advice no matter what the reason.


Origin: The Banksia plant comes in 60 varieties with a range of shapes and sizes. They were named after the British Botanist, Joseph Banks, who traveled with James Cook to Australia on his voyage of discovery in 1770. Banks is famed for making the first major collection of Australian flora, many of which were new to science.



This is one of Banks’ many botanical drawings. Banksia are known for their beautiful, distinctive flower which turns into the ‘cone’ of the bad banksia men as it ages.

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