Telopea speciosissima: is a member of the Proteaceae family, usually known as the Waratah and is the floral emblem of New South Wales. Telopea speciosissima is a tall rather straggly shrub that may reach a height of three metres. The Waratah has a lignotuber (swollen root mass).
The leaves are up to 25 centimetres long, narrow-obovate with toothed margins. They have a leathery texture.
The large red flowers are borne in terminal racemes in a globular or ovoid heads. Each head contains up to 90 flowers. Flower heads are surrounded by large red bracts. Waratahs are probably one of the most readily recognised Australian plants with their brilliant red flowers.
Cultivation is a problem in some areas. We have not yet succeeded at Yallaroo but we keep trying. We know of some successful Waratahs in the Armidale area.
Waratahs require well-drained sites and ample water in summer.
Pruning is necessary to keep plants bushy and blooming bounteously. Flowers with long stems should be cut off. Every few years all stems could be removed. This will encourage fresh shoots from the lignotuber.
Telopea speciosissima occurs in New South Wales on the Central Coast, Southern and Central Tablelands. The specimen illustrated was growing in Brisbane Waters National Park near Gosford on the Central Coast.
There is a very similar species, Telopea aspera, growing in the Gibraltar Range National Park on the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales.
A bewildering range of Waratah cultivars are available from nurseries. “Wirrimbirra White” is a striking cultivar that has creamy-white flowers and bracts.
The genus name means “seen from afar”. A very apt name when you consider the colour and size of the flowers.
Propagate from seed or cuttings. Cultivars need to be propagated from cuttings to preserve their desirable characteristics.