Australia has an extremely unique and rich ecosystem. 70% of the country classified as arid or semi arid; Despite this, it is home to a large variety of plants and animals, some of which withstand the harshest of weather conditions. This makes Australian flowers particularly unique as they are able to prosper and flourish with very little rainfall.
The Australian flower industry is mainly sustained by foreign mass produced flower farms. The industry survives through the importation of large shipments of flowers and foliage from overseas into Australia. A majority of the flowers that the public see and purchase from local florists and large commercial flower markets, have been imported from overseas from markets in Asia, Africa, South America and Europe. With the current push for Australian made or locally produced products from consumers it seems about time for this to include the flower industry.
Australian Native flowers are not only unique, long lasting and celebrate the rich and interesting environment of Australia but are also an ethical product choice. Australian Native flowers are more environmentally friendly to purchase than non-natives, as they are grown and produced within Australia. Australian native plants also play an important role in traditional Aboriginal culture as a material used for food, medicine and ceremony. Australian native plants and have been praised for their beauty and uniqueness. So what’s not to love?
Here are Five Favourite Australian Native Flowers for your enjoyment.
The Grevillea is made up of a series of florets that curve inwards towards the stem. Grevilleas are unique as they are a type of flower that surprisingly don’t grow petals and can survive extreme desert conditions. The Grevillea should not be confused with the bottle brush, despite looking familiar. Grevilleas are also referred to as the spider flower because of their unusual form (non-inclusive of petals). They can be found all throughout Australia. Gevilleas decorate the Central Australian desert landscapes with their gold and pink tinges. Grevillieas are also a delicious treat to eat. After it rains, Grevilleas catch droplets of water in their stems. This combines with their natural sap to create a honey treat that can be eaten. A simple shake of any ants away and Grevilleas are a tasty indigenous Australian snack called a “bush lolly”. Grevilleas are available almost all year round, with the best quality blooms between November and May.
The Eucalyptus is found all over Australia, including central city areas. The Eucalyptus is wonderful for its medicinal properties, unique smell and role within the Australian landscape. Despite being used mainly as a foliage, it definitely has a spot on this flower list. Eucalyptus’ comes in many shapes, sizes and forms; from long pointed green leaves, to small rounded silver leaves. We have Eucalyptus to thank for the blue colour of the Blue Mountains. The Eucalyptus are also the home and food source for our favourite furry friend, the koala. Eucalyptus has a refreshing smell and is the perfect friend in winter when blocked noses decide to make an appearance. Eucalyptus is celebrated for its health benefits and role in aromatherapy. The Eucalyptus is now used globally as a decongestant, deodorant and antiseptic, just to name a few.
A member of the Eucalyptus family, Eucalyptus flowering gum produces tufts of colour, so striking that they transport you to the world of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. Producing sparkly tufts in pinks, yellows, oranges and reds, as well as the all famous Gumnut, eucalyptus flowering gum should be celebrated for all of its beauty. Eucalyptus Flowering Gum is available late November to February. You should consider it a floral staple for your home.
The South African Protea has emerged as one of the more popular native flowers. The Protea is a very powerful looking flower, with strong stems, and a large head. While the Protea is beautiful, Australia has its very own version, the Banksia (belongs to the Protea family). Banksias are large headed focal flowers that come in a variety of shapes and colours. From oranges, to greens and yellows, the Banksia is striking, long lasting and a perfect representation of the unique and interesting assortment of flora and fauna we have here in Australia. Aboriginals use Banksias as a sweet source of food. It is unfortunate that many species of Banksia are listed as rare and endangered. For this reason, consider adding a Banksia to your coffee table to celebrate its beauty and help ensure its continuity in the Australian Flower Industry. Banksias are available February to November, but dried out Banksias can be purchased all year round!
Unlike other Australian Natives, wattles (not to be confused with the fleshy part that hangs from a birds neck) have a very short life once cut from their tree. Despite this their vibrant colour makes for a stunning and talkable arrangement. Wattle (also known as Acacia) is striking yet delicate, whimsical, yet powerful. Golden Wattle is Australia’s official floral emblem, and was used extensively within Aboriginal lifestyle. Wattle was a food and medicine source as well as a material source to create tools, musical instruments and weapons. Wattle may can be dried out for indefinite keeping, so is the perfect purchase and gift. Wattle is available Winter Spring, and is the perfect golden treat to brighten your home in the cooler seasons.
And finally, the Waratah, the NSW state flower. Crimson in colour, with a domed head, the Waratah has been an inspiration for painters and artists alike. ‘Waratah’ is the aboriginal name for the flower, and translates to mean ‘beautiful’. Be careful though, the waratah is protected, so don’t be tempted to pick it from its natural habitat, instead consider growing a Waratah tree in your own garden. Waratahs are considered to be strong, resilient and wise flowers. Waratahs can withstand bush fires, being able to germinate seedlings in the ground up to 5 years after the fire. Waratahs are the perfect addition to a floral arrangement and can make a beautiful garden flower! In the flower industry, Waratahs are available Late August to October, making them a special must have treat in Spring.
Unlike tropical and other non-native Australian plants, natives have a long vase life. Native flowers can be dried out easily and kept indefinitely as a home decoration. They are suited to the Australian environment, meaning the quality is of a much higher level compared to non-natives. Next time you're buying flowers, why not consider swapping Sunflowers for Banksias, or Orchids for Grevilleas. Native flower choice does not just have a place in a vase, ethical planting choices can be made in your very own garden. If you're lacking inspiration, why not pick yourself up a copy of May Gibbs’ ‘Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’.
Local growers are passionate about the industry. Many are multigenerational flower farmers. As consumers, we are becoming more aware of where our food and products are sourced and grown. Let's include the flower industry in this shift of perspective. Take the time to support Australian flower growers, and ask your florists where they source their products from.