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Waratahs

About Waratahs

The Waratah is one of Australia’s most iconic flowers and although it comes in many different forms Telopea speciosissima is more commonly known as the New South Wales waratah, and is the most recognizable.

With its crimson red bulbous flower head, green razor leaves and long stem, this beauty adorns much when it comes to Australian paraphernalia.  

I love the tales and back stories that surround flowers.  Most have their roots firmly embedded in ancient Greek mythology. I'm not sure whether they are true or false but everything starts somewhere especially when it comes to the botanical world.  As I was researching this much-loved Australian native, I happened upon a story that is as time honoured as those of the ancient Greeks.  This legend has been passed down through the generations by the first peoples of Australia, the Aboriginal.  This story is from the Dreamtime when there were many beautiful plants and flowers just as there are today. Some of them are just as they were in the Dreamtime, but some have changed. The waratah flower is one of them. It is an unusual flower because it grows at the top of a sturdy stem that reaches out of a small bush. Usually, the flower is a deep red but occasionally a white one may be found. However, in the Dreamtime all the waratahs were white.

Wonga and her mate - the story begins with Wonga the Pigeon and her close mate who lived in the bushland.  They would spend their time on the floor of the forest gathering food and had a rule to never to get out of one another's sight. They had to stay below the trees because they knew that in the land of the sky lived the Hawk - their deadly enemy. One day when Wonga and her mate were out, they got separated. Wonga called out to her mate but there was no reply. After searching around the lower branches Wonga decided that the only hope of finding her mate before dark, was to fly above the trees. She flew towards the tree-tops and into the clear blue sky, calling. Eventually Wonga found her mate way down beneath her but not before the Hawk had spotted her. He had seen Wonga and was hurtling towards her with his strong beak piercing the air. Hawk caught Wonga with a crushing grip tearing at her breast with his great brown talons and started hauling her up towards the sky.  Wonga desperately tore herself free from Hawk and plunged downwards towards the forest below. Unable to fly, she landed bleeding and broken in a patch of waratah bushes. Her blood trickled down onto one of the white waratah flowers. She tried desperately to reach her mate by dragging herself from flower-to-flower staining each, a deep red as she went. Eventually Wonga lost her battle with life and died as she laid upon the waratah bushes. To this day most waratahs are red, however sometimes although it is very rare, it is still possible to find a white or juvenile green, just as they were back in the Dreamtime.

In the language of flowers, they represent both the positive and tragic aspects of love and friendship.