NATIONAL Flower of Australia : GOLDEN WATTLE, Acacia pycnantha.
This sunshine-yellow fluffy flower is now the image of Australia. Even its colours are represented in national uniforms and flags. You can easily find acacia flowers and foliages in floral suppliers.
Acacias are part of the mimosa family, a tropical and sub-tropical group of plants. The second part of its name, pycnantha, means “dense flower”, referring to its pompom ball flowerheads.
Golden wattle grows wild in many parts of Australia, but mostly in New South Wales. After long discussion (and almost a century of debate), it was declared Australia’s national flower in 1988, on the year of Australia’s bicentenary.
Four years later, in 1992, September 1 was formally proclaimed National Wattle Day.
AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY state flower : ROYAL BLUEBELL, Wahlenbergia gloriosa.
This pretty blue bulb flower occurs naturally in the woodlands of the ACT. It’s a good garden plant, and naturalises well – useful at home and in the wild (where it is a protected species).
It is part of the campanula family, nearly all of which make great cut flowers, and many in shades of beautiful sky blue like the royal bluebell.
NEW SOUTH WALES state flower : WARATAH, Telopea speciosissima.
Belonging to the Protea family, which includes pincushions and sugarbush, the waratah grows all along the Central Coast and into the hinterland mountains. Its botanic name Telopea means “seen from a distance” – the tree can reach 4m tall, and its large, deep cherry-red flowers are dramatic and eyecatching.
There is a pure white version, very elegant, and a scarcer pink form. You’ll enjoy the flowers in Spring, as will nectar-loving birds who pollinate the blooms. It makes an excellent – and much-sought after – cut flower.
NORTHERN TERITORY state flower: STURT’S DESERT ROSE, Gossypium sturtianum.
Australian explorer Captain Charles Sturt first collected Gossypium in the Barrier Range in 1844-45. The plant named in his honour is related to cotton, and the tropical hibiscus – as you can see from the flower. The plant is sometimes called cotton rose bush, or Australian cotton, because of this.
A squat, dark, heat-loving shrub, Sturt’s desert rose is found in the stony slopes and dry creeks of the outback all over Australia. You can order cotton branches from your florist supplier; they make quirky additions to native or traditional bouquets.
QUEENSLAND state flower : COOKTOWN ORCHID, (Dendrobium) Vappodes phalaenopsis.
The magenta-purple Cooktown orchid was named as the floral emblem of Queensland in 1959. Its early name Dendrobium means “grows on a tree”; phalaenopsis means “looks like a moth”. It has recently been reclassified as Vappodes. The Cooktown orchid occurs naturally in tropical northern Queensland, from Innisfail, south of Cairns, to Cape York Peninsula.
In the garden it will grow outdoors as far south as Brisbane, in a north-facing spot. It flowers in the wild during the dry season. Each plant might have up to 20 flowering stems, each with up to 20 large, purple-pink flowers on – that’s up to 400 blooms per plant. If you are looking for a similar florist flower, both Dendrobium and Phalaenopsis orchids have many beautiful blooms to choose from, as plants and cut stems.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA state flower : STURT’S DESERT PEA, Swainsona formosa.
This amazing-looking plant was first discovered by English explorer William Dampier in 1688, when he visited islands off the northwestern Australian coast. Its common name remembers Sturt, to commemorate his explorations 150 years later, after he noted the plant in Central Australia. Swainsona is after an English botanist, Isaac Swainson, who had a private garden on the outskirts of London in the 1700s.
“Formosa” is latin for beautiful; the plant is perhaps more unusual than conventionally pretty. Red rounded petals like chili peppers, each with a central black ‘eye’, crouch low to the ground. It certainly could not be mistaken for anything else.
The plant is slow-growing, creeping, covered in fine hairs to shield it from extreme heat. The flowers reach up to 30 centimetres tall, in various shades of red. Sturt’s desert pea often appears as an ‘ephemeral’ – emerging seemingly from nowhere after heavy rain.
TASMANIA state flower : TASMANIAN BLUE GUM, Eucalyptus globulus
Blue gums are the archetypal Australian tree, but only Tasmania has claimed one for its state symbol.
The Tasmanian blue gum flowers are larger than other Tasmanian eucalypts – a pompom of white stamens emerging in early summer. The Tasmanian blue gum – like Australians ourselves – has spread around the globe, making itself at home in parts of Africa and India, Chile and Argentina, California, and the Mediterranean. If you fancy one in your back yard, it grows up to 60m tall – so make sure you have the room before you plant. Otherwise, many eucalyptus flowers are available for bouquet use in more manageable sizes.