Waratahs are borne on the waratah tree, Telopea speciosissima, which is native to eastern NSW. Other species that are sometimes used as cut flowers are T. oreades, found in Gippsland, Victoria, and T. truncata, found in Tasmania. The latter two species are not as showy as T. speciosissima, and are more commonly used as garden plants, or in breeding programs. Waratahs are a much loved spring flower in Australia, particularly in NSW where they are the state flower. They were also the official flower of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
Waratahs bear large red flowers in spring. Each flowerhead is surrounded by red to bronze bracts and is made up of dozens of individual florets that open from the outside in. The tightly packed buds in the centre of the flower can often have a blue appearance. Each thick woody stem bears one flower at the top, surrounded by slightly spiky green leaves. Selection and breeding has resulted in white, cream or pink flowers, but these are rare as cut flowers.
Waratahs are only available for a few weeks, from late winter to spring. They are grown on plantations mainly in Victoria and NSW.
What to look for
- Flowers with the least number of open florets, as long as some are open;
- Leaves that are fresh and green;
- Avoid flowers with a blue tinge.
- Keep cool whenever possible.
- Split bunches and strip leaves from the lower half of each stem.
- Recut 2 cm off each stem with sharp secateurs and place in cold water immediately.
- Never bash or split stem ends.
- NO preservative – place in cold water with a teaspoon of bleach per half filled bucket. The sugar in preservatives causes excess nectar production.
- Replace water every day.
- Waratahs are very sensitive to ethylene. Keep them away from fruit, car exhausts and cigarette smoke.
Interesting Facts about this Flower
Telopea is derived from the Greek ‘telopos’, meaning ‘seen from afar’, and refers to the great distance from which the crimson flowers are discernible. The specific name speciosissima is the superlative of the Latin adjective ‘speciosus’, meaning ‘beautiful’ or ‘handsome’. ‘Waratah’, the Aboriginal name for the species, was adopted by early settlers at Port Jackson, which was later re-named Sydney.
For more information visit the Australian National Botanic Garden website.
Botanical Name: Telopea speciosissima
Common Names: Waratah
Stem Length: 30 to 70 cm
Country of Origin: Australia
Available Colours: Cream, Pink, Red, White