With spring in our sights, let’s embrace the changing season by taking a look at the floral emblems of Australia’s eight states and territories.
Pick a favourite (if possible), find out where you can go visit them, and which of these native flowers of Australia you can care for at home.
New South Wales – Waratah – (Telopea speciosissima)
Beautifully bold and vibrant red in color, the waratah can’t help but capture your attention. Telopea is derived from the Greek ‘telopos‘, meaning ‘seen from afar’ which is certainly true of this flower. These shrubs bloom from September to November and the species is common on the Central Coast and mountains of New South Wales. They also occur naturally in at least ten national parks across the Sydney Basin. These flowers tend to be long-lived – they can even survive destruction from fires. They also last well in water as cut flowers.
Victoria – Common Heath – (Epacris impressa)
These bell-shaped beauties are found almost year-round but are most abundant in the winter season. Blooming occurs from the end of autumn into the end of spring. The flowers are densely collected around the stem with colors ranging on the pink scale. Common heaths can be spotted in shrubs found in gardens. They are most common in coastal regions around Victoria as well as adjoining foothills from Clyde River, New South Wales all the way to the Mt Lofty Ranges in South Australia. They can also be spotted in Tasmania.
South Australia – Sturt’s Desert Pea – (Swainsona formosa)
This species of flower is actually a member of the pea family, hence its name and pea-shaped center. This unique flower is known for its bright red petals stemming from its dark and glossy centre. White and dark pink colours can also be found on its petals. They require full sun, and for this reason, are tricky to have in your home, so you will have to chase them outdoors. Sturt’s Desert Peas are an Australian exclusive, occurring naturally in all states except for Victoria. Where can you go see them? They are common in woodlands and open plains, surviving many naturally occurring temperatures and extremes – except for snails! These flowers are important to South Australia and are prohibited from being collected privately without written permission from the owner.
Western Australia – Red and Green Kangaroo Paw – (Anigozanthos manglesii)
The kangaroo paw is one of the most coveted native flowers of Australia. This flower is absolutely gorgeous with its tube-shaped and velvety petals. These flowers love full sun and are a must-see when they are in full bloom. They are also very good cut flowers. While they are easily exported, they only occur naturally in the southwest of Western Australia. In fact, they are an export favourite of the United States, Japan, and Israel. They can be found in abundance throughout spring and summer. Find them growing along riverbanks and roadsides, in forests, near swamps and shallow waters – essentially anywhere around the sunny state where they can take root. Even birds are captivated by their beauty, as the plant’s stalk is a perfect perch for birds that are drawn in by the captivating colours.
Tasmania – Tasmanian Blue Gum – (Eucalyptus globulus)
Tasmanian Blue Gums are tall trees with smooth grey bark and their branches are covered in blueish grey blooms, hence the name. The flower buds are shaped like caps – ‘kalypto’ means ‘to cover.’ These beauties can be spotted in southeast Tasmanian forests. Maria Island National Park, Freycinet National Park, Tasman Arch Nature Reserve, and St Mary’s Pass Nature Reserve are all conservation areas that Blue Gums are staunchly protected in.
Northern Territory – Sturt’s Desert Rose – (Gossypium sturtianum)
The Sturt Desert Rose is the native emblem of the Northern Territory. Look familiar? You may recognise it from the state flag. They are relatively small shrubs with dark green leaves and small mauve flower petals formed around a red centre. Peak blooming actually occurs in late winter, so they’ll be popping up as you read this. They occur naturally in dry creek beds and on rocky slopes in the southern part of the NT but can also be spotted in north-eastern South Australia, western Queensland, western New South Wales, and parts of northern Western Australia. Due to their membership in the hibiscus family, these flowers will close upon picking them, so they can’t be cut and kept indoors. You’ll just have to take a trip into nature to enjoy these beauties.
Queensland – Cooktown Orchid – (Dendrobium phalaenopsis)
Queensland’s native flower, the Cooktown Orchid, was named after the northern Queensland town of the same name. When Queensland celebrated its Centenary in 1959, a poll was published in Brisbane’s Courier Mail to decide its state floral emblem. Of the 15 flowers specie son the ballot, the Cooktown Orchid won by a mile. They can grow to nearly three feet and carry as few as three and as many as twenty flowers. The flowers may be small, but their striking lilac color range is certainly eye-catching. These flowers can be found in tropical districts in northern Queensland, usually growing at the base of tree trunks. Please be gentle if you come across these, as they have become rare and even extinct especially in the southern area. Let’s keep these beauties alive!
Australian Capital Territory – Royal Bluebell – (Wahlenbergia gloriosa)
This striking and dainty flower is the native emblem of the ACT. This violet flower is only a few centimeters in size, budding from a single lengthy stem. Wild Royal Bluebells flower from October to March and are found mainly in the subalpine woodlands outside Canberra, but can also be found in south-eastern New South Wales and some parts of Victoria. These flowers can be potted or hung – just don’t put them in a vase as they are short-lived when cut.