The bold form and eye-catching colour of the waratah ensures its place as one of the best-known Australian native flowers. This iconic beauty is most commonly found in deep crimson red and lesser-known cream and pink hues. Featuring a large and unique flower measuring up to 15cm in diameter on a thick, woody stem, we welcome wonderful waratahs to our Melbourne flower store every spring.
History of the Waratah
‘Waratah’ is the aboriginal name for the species and was adopted by early settlers at Port Jackson which was later renamed Sydney. The latin name for the plant is Telopea Speciosissima. ‘Telopea’ is derived from the Greek word ‘telopos’ which translates as ‘seen from afar’ and refers to the distance the large, red flowers are visible from. The specific name ‘speciosissima’ comes from the Latin adjective ‘speciosus’ which means ‘beautiful’ or ‘handsome’ which these blooms certainly are! Interestingly, the word ‘waratah’ is derived from the Eora aboriginal word ‘warada’ which means both ‘beautiful’ and ‘seen from afar’.
The waratah is the New South Wales state flower, and it is also native to the area. The waratah has an historical significance for many Australians, featuring in many arts and crafts produced in the late-1800s as a protest against mass-produced goods. It was almost given the status of national flower, but the iconic golden wattle claimed this significant title.
How to care for waratahs
When choosing waratahs, look for blooms that are partly opened and coloured deep crimson. When the flower has a visible blue-tinge it is a sign they are expiring. Strip leaves off the lower part of the woody stem before cutting approximately 2cm off the ends on an angle using sharp secateurs. Immediately plunge into a vase of cool water, recutting the stems and changing the water every two days. Waratahs are highly sensitive to ethylene so keep them away from fruit, car exhaust fumes and cigarette smoke.
How to style waratahs
These bold beauties shine when styled in a grouped modern design with other Australian native flora and eucalyptus foliage. They also look fabulous when arranged en masse in a clear glass vase to showcase their strong form, from their thick, woody stems to their luscious, jagged-edged leaves and magnificently unique flower.