Many of the flowers native to Australia have well-recorded botanical histories that attest to their dates of discovery and their characteristics. Additionally, some of them have places of special honor in the history and culture of Australia, being floral emblems formalized by legislative decree.
Sturt's Desert Rose
Sturt's Desert Rose (Gossypium sturtianum ) is the floral emblem of the Northern Territory, so designated by proclamation in 1961. It also goes by a number of other names, including Australian cotton, cotton rosebush and Darling river rose. "Sturt" refers to Capt. Charles Sturt (1795 to 1869) who first discovered the desert rose in central Australia around 1844. Beyond Australia, the Gossypium genus, a member of the Malvaceae family, is prominent in tropical and sub-tropical Africa, Asia and the Americas. The mauve petals and red base of Sturt's desert rose present a striking contrast to the dark green leaves of this shrub plant. Sturt's desert rose grows naturally in rocky areas of the Northern Territory. It is a drought-tolerant shrub that can be propagated from seeds and cuttings; however, like its sister flower, the hibiscus, the desert rose flower is spent soon after cutting. Its suitability as a cut flower is limited for this reason.
In 1958, the state of Victoria formally proclaimed the pink form of common heath (Epacris impressa) as its floral emblem. Victoria was the first Australian state to formally designate such an emblem. The French botanist, Jacques-Julien Houton de Labillardiere discovered common heath in Tasmania in 1793. The Epacris genus includes about 40 species of evergreen shrubs that grow in temperate eastern Australia and New Zealand. They belong to the Epacridaceae family. The plant exhibits sharp, pointed leaves, which frame tight clusters of tubular flowers in an array of colors, including white, pale and rose pink, crimson and scarlet. Common heath flowers from late fall to spring. The Grampian Heath (Epacris impressa var. grandiflora), which features rose-crimson flowers, is exclusive to the Grampian Mountains of western Victoria.
The Waratah (Telopea speciosissima) is the official floral emblem of New South Wales, adopted by proclamation in 1962. The name is Aboriginal in origin, and dates back to the early settlement days in Port Jackson, when this striking crimson bract flower with dark green leathery alternate leaves first became the subject of admiration. In 1810, Robert Brown (1773 to 1858) named the genus based on flowers that came from the Blue Mountain to the west of Sydney. The genus Telopea is native to eastern Australia, and it is part of the Proteaceae family prevalent in Australia and southern Africa. The Waratah usually blooms between September and November. An interesting variety, Telopea "Wirrimbirra White" exhibits beautiful white petals.