Tree to 25 m high; bark grey-brown, thick, roughly tessellated (mosaic-like). Its smaller branches are striated (striped with parallel longitudinal ridges or lines).
- Often whorled (arranged as a ring of leaves), lance-shaped and sometimes broadest in the upper third
- 4 – 10 cm long and 1 – 3.5 cm wide
- Coloured differently on the two surfaces: upper surface dark green, dull to shiny; lower surface white and covered with dense intertwined hairs
- Pointed or having a broad shallow notch at the tip
- Adult leaves have entire margins while juveniles will have a few short teeth, flat or slightly curved backwards
Flowers mainly January - June. Pale yellow cylindrical spikes forming a bottle-brush shape. Each flower head is 6 – 12 cm long, 5 – 8 cm wide and attracts insects and nectar-eating birds.
Seed "cones" opening spontaneously on ripening 8 – 10 months after flowering. Seeds are enclosed in follicles, body of seed crescent-shaped, 6 – 10 mm long, wing 10 – 20 mm long.
Fire stimulates the opening of Banksia seed-bearing follicles and the germination of seeds in the ground.