Australian National Emblem - Acacia pycnantha
: The Acacia or Wattle was suggested as a national symbol by many at the time of federation in 1901. It became nationally popular around 1908-10 with South Australia, Queensland and Victoria recognising it. But some preferred the Waratah as it is unique to Australia while the Wattle is also native to Africa, America and the West Indies. Acacia pycnantha was formally adopted only in 1988 as part of the bi-centennial celebrations and National Wattle Day was officially proclaimed to be on 1st
September every year.
The Plant: Acacia pycnantha is a shrub or small tree growing to 8 metres that has sickle shaped green phyllodes (no actual leaves) and bright golden yellow fluffy flower heads with up to 80 very small sweetly scented flowers that appear in spring. These mature to long brown seed pods that split to release their seeds.
The bark is used for tannin production and the flowers for perfume. The dominant colours of green and gold have become the sporting colours of Australia - with blue (to represent the sky) sometimes added to good effect.
Australian Capital Territory - Wahlenbergia gloriosa - Royal Bluebell
Commonly known as the Royal Bluebell, Wahlenbergia gloriosa was officially adopted as floral emblem of the ACT in 1982. It is a small perennial herb with oblong, wavy edged leaves and violet blue flowers that are held aloft on long slender stems.
It originated in the sub alpine woodlands of the ACT, NSW and Victoria though other species of Wahlenbergia occur in South America and New Zealand. It makes a good ground cover and also grows well in pots and hanging baskets flowering profusely from October through to March.
New South Wales - Telopea Speciossima - Waratah
The common name Waratah is aboriginal but the botanical name "Telopea" means "seen from a great distance" which is very appropriate for a flower that looks just like a flame torch. A variety is being especially bred for the Sydney 200 Olympics as it quite remarkably resembles the Olympic Flame.
This species occurs from the Central Coast down to Conjola on poor, sandy soils from sea level up to 1,000 metres in open forestry. In the garden it is spectacular but very fussy regarding the right conditions - particularly waterlogging which will kill it stone dead in no time.
Northern Territory - Gossypium sturtianum - Sturt's Desert Rose
Proclaimed in 1961 as floral emblem of NT, the Sturt's Desert Rose was originally discovered by Captain Charles Sturt on his exploratory journies to the centre of Australia in 1844.
It was origianlly named "Sturtia gossypioides" but renamed many times. Along with the Hibiscus it is a member of the Malvaceae family and is a compact shrub of 1-2 metres height with dark green oval leaves with black stipples and flowers with mauve and red petals.
Queensland - Dendrobium phalaenopsis - Cooktown Orchid
The Dendrobium is a member of the Orchidaceae family which is the largest in the world. The Cooktown Orchid however suffers a bit of an identiy crisis in that it is also known as Dendrobium phalaenopsis or Dendrobium bigibbum.
It grows up to 0.8m in height with lance shaped leaves and long stems bearing up to 20 flower heads of a pale lilac colour. This spectacualr plant occurs naturally from Johnson River to the Iron Ranges in North Queensland and was voted to its position as floral emblem by readers of the Brisbane Courier-Mail.
South Australia - Swainsona fomosa - Sturt's Desert Pea
Adopted in 1961 the Sturt's Desert Pea is a prostrate perennial with silky grey green foliage and long striking red and black flowers. They mature to long pea like seed pods.
It occurs naturally in the arid woodlands and open plains of central Australia where it will flower following heavy rains.
In gardens it requires deep, well drained soils and lots and lots of sunlight.
Tasmania - Eucalyptus globulus - Tasmanian Blue Gum
1962 saw the official adoption of the tasmanian Blue Gum as floral emblem of Tasmania. First noted in 1792 by French explorer Houton de Labillardiere, the asmanina Blue Gum is a tall, straigh tree growing to 70 metres and 2 metres trunk diameter.
The bark is rough and furrowed at the base but peels off higher up to reveal a smooth surface. It bears creamy flowers that yeild plentiful amounts of nectar that are the source of a wonderfully tasty honey. It occurs naturally in the open forests of Southeast Tasmania and along the eatern coast - but is too large for garden cultivation.
Victoria - Epacris impressa - Common Heath
Declared floral emblem in 1958, the Common Heath is a slender, upright shrub growing to 1 metre in height with narrow, pointed leaves and densley packedtubular flowers that can be a variety of colours from pale pink to red.
Flowering in winter, the Common Heath occurs naturall across the Southern regions of Australia from alpine areas down to the coast.
It makes a very attractive but short lived addition to gardens in cooler and moist climates.
Western Australia - Anigozanthus mangelsii - Kangaroo Paw
Declared the state floral emblem in November of 1960 the Anigozanthus manglesii is one of 12 different species of the Kangaroo Paw that grows only in Western Australia - down is the south west corner.
Prized by flower arrangers, this totally unique plant has made a large impact around the globe in recent years providing a very graphic and colourful contrast to arrangements.
Further information can be found at the National Herbarium website. All other associated national symbols are featured here on this typically comprehensive Australian Government site.