Waratah

Waratah (Telopea) is an endemic, Australian genus of five species of large shrubs or small trees, native to the southeastern parts of Australia (New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania).

The most well-known species in this genus is Telopea speciosissima, which has bright red flowers and is the NSW state emblem.

The waratah is a member of the plant family Proteaceae, a family of flowering plants distributed in the Southern Hemisphere. The key diagnostic feature of Proteaceae is the inflorescence, which is often very large, brightly coloured and showy, consisting of many small flowers densely packed into a compact head or spike.

Species of waratah boast such inflorescences ranging from 6–15 cm in diameter with a basal ring of coloured bracts.

The leaves are spirally arranged, 10–20 cm long and 2–3 cm broad with entire or serrated margins.

The name waratah comes from the Eora Aboriginal people, the original inhabitants of the Sydney area.

Species grow as either large shrubs or small trees with spirally arranged leaves with either entire or serrated margins. They prefer sandy loam soils and are a pyrogenic flowering species, meaning that they rely on post-fire flowering followed by production and dispersal of non-dormant seeds to take advantage of favourable growing conditions in the altered environment following a fire.

The natural distributions of the five species of Telopea are all confined to east coast regions from northern New South Wales to Tasmania. Each of the species has its own distinctive natural distribution with minimal or no overlap. Climatic changes may have restricted the expansion of species distribution or led to its isolation in a particular region. However, waratahs can also grow outside of these natural distribution areas.