The Waratah has for a long time been one of Australia's most admired flowers. It is the state floral emblem of New South Wales
The Waratah is a large, long-lived shrub or tree that generally grows to 3m in height. After fires, which are common in its natural habitat, a waratah can regenerate from a ‘lignotuber’ - a woody swelling of its stem that lies partly or wholly under the ground.
Waratahs flower over a six-week period in spring in the Sydney region, but later in cooler areas. The size and shape of the blooms can vary considerably, as can the range of naturally occurring colours, although the majority are red and pink. A commercially available white variety known as 'Wirrimbirra White' is not true white but a creamy yellow or greenish colour. The main pollinators of waratahs are birds, which are attracted by the copious amounts of nectar and bright colours.
The waratahs features strongly in Indigenous Australian legend. They were also used by early European settlers for basket-making and depicted in many everyday items such as paintings and pottery.
The common name ‘waratah’ was coined by Indigenous Australians and means ‘red-flowering tree’. The botanical name ‘telopea’ means ‘seen from afar’, and ‘speciosissima’ means 'most beautiful'. The waratah truly is a most beautiful plant, especially when in flower, and was described by early botanists as the ‘most magnificent plant’ in New Holland. Now symbolically instated as the floral emblem of NSW, the waratah has become arguably the most famous and recognisable Australian plant.