Habit and habitat Photo W.R.Barker

Leaves and inflorescences. Photo I.Holliday

Leaves, involucres and inflorescence; the flowers in the inflorescence have lost their tepals exposing the ovary and gland. Photo W.R.Barker

Flowers in an inflorescence, tepals lost; the arrows indicate the flap-like gland at the base of the green ovary. Note also the pollen presenter shape. Photo W.R.Barker

Leaves and inflorescence; fruits are seldom found since they are lost very quickly. An opened fruit is present on the ground in the leaf litter. Photo W.R.Barker


Hakea recurva Meisn., in A.L.P.P. de Candolle, Prodr. 14:394 (1856) subsp. recurva

T: in collibus Swan R., Western Australia, without date, J.Drummond 4: 288; syn: BM, K, LE, NY p.p., OXF, P, TCD.

An image of the NY type specimen can be seen on the New York Botanical Garden site.


Erect shrub, 1–6 m tall, non-lignotuberous. Branchlets sparsely appressed-sericeous or tomentose, quickly glabrescent, glaucous. Leaves terete, straight or markedly recurved, 5–12 cm long, 2–3.2 mm wide, rigid, not grooved, sparsely appressed-sericeous, quickly glabrescent; mucro 3.7–5.5 mm. Involucre 4–7.5 mm long; bracts pale with darker acuminate or rounded rim, usually pubescent, sometimes glabrous.

Inflorescence with 20–40 flowers; rachis 1.5–3.5 mm long, villous, with white, cream-yellow or pale brown hairs; pedicels 8–13 mm long, glabrous, glaucous. Perianth 4-5 mm long, cream, white, or yellow, ?pink in bud, glabrous, glaucous or not. Pistil 6.5–11 mm long; gland 0.8–1 mm high.

Fruit obliquely ovate, 1.7–2.3 cm long, 1–1.3 cm wide, smooth, not apiculate; beak short and broad; horns obscure but apex always blackened. Seed c. 15 mm long; wing extending fully down one side of seed body.

Distribution and ecology

Widespread in Western Australia from Murchison R. south-east to near Hyden and east to the Great Victoria Desert.

To plot an up to date distribution map based on herbarium collections for this species see Australia's Virtual Herbarium. Localities outside the native range may represent cultivated or naturalised records.

Flowering time

Flowers July–Oct.

Derivation of name

From recurva, Latin for recurved, a reference to the recurvature of the leaves of this species.


How the infraspecific taxa differ

Subspecies arida and subsp. recurva differ in leaf length, width and orientation, involucral bud characters and gland size (see key below).

Key to subspecies of H. recurva

Leaves 5–12 cm long, 2–3.2 mm wide; involucre 4–7.5 mm long, pubescent, the bracts pale with darker acuminate rim; pedicels 8–13 mm long; gland 0.8–1 mm high

subsp. recurva

Leaves usually to 4 cm long, 1.2–1.6 mm wide; involucre 2–3.5 mm long, glabrous, the bracts reddish with pale brown rounded rim; pedicels 4.5–8 mm long; gland 0.2 mm high

subsp. arida


There are specimens in which these characters break down (e.g. the PERTH collections of Blackall s.n. from Bardoc have the leaf length and width of subsp. arida but the gland size and involucral bud characteristics of subsp. recurva), and so the two taxa have been reduced to subspecies. Some specimens with narrower leaves than the normal 2–3.2 mm wide for subsp. recurva also have a gland size intermediate between the two taxa (0.5–0.7 mm high) and further work is required on the complex before an understanding of the variation can be achieved.


Part of Section Hakea of Bentham (as Euhakea) and characterised by a non-conical pollen presenter, leaves without obvious venation, perianths with or without hairs and fruits with or without horns. Barker et al. (1999) recognised a number of informal morphological groups within the section.

The Microcarpa group all share the characteristics of needle leaves, oblique pollen presenter and non-woody, beaked, and sometimes horned, fruits which are not retained for any length of time on the bushes.

Members of the group are H. collina, H. microcarpa, H. recurva and H. standleyensis.


Specimens with particularly thick down-curved leaves have a tendency to be found closer to the coast and those with thinner straight erect leaves are usually to be found in more inland areas.

Unless flowers are present, distinction of H. recurva from many of the simple needle-leaved species may well prove difficult, particularly when dealing with subsp. arida.

Fruit are very quickly lost in this species and are rarely to be found on herbarium collections.

Representative specimens

Western Australia: near Booran Siding, A.M.Ashby 995 (AD); c. 40 km N of Bullfinch on Mt Jackson Rd, L.Haegi 2559 & P.Short (AD, MEL, PERTH); 69 km SE of Mileura HS, N.Speck 704 (AD, CANB).


Link to FloraBase treatment of this species for WA.


More photographs of this species can be seen on the Australian National Botanic Gardens site.


Further illustrations

I. Holliday, Hakeas. A Field and Garden Guide 176-7 (2005)

J.A..Young, Hakeas of Western Australia. A Field and Identification Guide 99 (2006)