Over the past few weeks my Instagram feed has been flooded with beautiful specimens of native Waratahs. Waratah flowers only have a reasonably short season, generally beginning sometime in October and continuing throughout the month of November, so essentially they are currently in their prime. The blooms are available in stunning reds, as well as pink tones, white, creams and lemon.
Telopea speciosissima, the most well known of the Waratah species, was named the floral emblem of New South Wales on 24 October 1962 after being used for many years informally. Telopea, derived from the Greek word ‘telopos’ means ‘seen from afar’ and refers to the fact that the rich red flowers could be seen from a distance. Speciosissima, is from a Latin word meaning ‘most beautiful’. Waratah was actually the Aboriginal name for the species. The Waratah was said to be popular with the Aboriginal people thanks to the rich nectar they would sip from the flowers.
Telopea is an Eastern Australian genus. The Waratah is part of the Proteaceae family, a family which also includes Grevillea, Banksia, Macadamia and Hakea. These plants are predominately found throughout Australia and South Africa. The defining feature of those within the Proteaceae family is the inflorescence; very large, brightly coloured and showy, and consisting of many small flowers densely packed into a compact head or spike. The Waratah certainly fits the bill, with it’s rounded head full of compact flowers which generally measure 7-10 cm in diameter. The long woody stems are adorned with dark green, long and leathery leaves.
The Waratah makes a fantastic cut flower as it is long lasting, has a lovely long, straight stem, and a large, eye catching bloom. The Waratah also has very little scent so makes a good choice for those who suffer from allergies.
Did you know that cutting Waratahs from the bush is an offence? These days many native wildflowers are protected, however, some twenty years ago it is estimated that as much as 90% of the Waratahs sold at Flemington Markets were bush picked.
Waratahs are generally sold per stem and the price will be determined by both the quality of the inflorescence, and the length of the stem. Like many other wild flowers, Waratahs are a tree. Therefore it is understandable that it takes quite some time for a tree to grow and produce a decent crop- approximately 3-5 years in fact! When you conosder that for a moment, it’s a substantial amount of time to wait to collect on your investment. Add to that the fact that Waratah cannot simply be planted and then forgotten, even more so. The Waratah does require a level of maintenance, as well as insecticide management and water throughout the drier months. It has also been known to have problems with Borers. For flowers like lilies, or gerberas you are only looking at 12-16 weeks for a yield- that equates to 3- 4 crops a year!
Waratahs are certainly a spectacular bloom endemic to our homeland and with only weeks left in their season, you’ll need to be quick to enjoy them this year! We also offer lovely native arrangements like the Wild Native Box which makes a gorgeous gift. Check it out here!