There are four species of Waratah. They belong to the Proteaceae family which is a group of flowering plants found in the southern hemisphere. Members of that family native to Australia include Banksias, Grevilleas and the Macadamia nut.
The Protea from South Africa is also a member.
The best known Waratah is probably Telopia speciosissima which is the state flower of New South Wales.
They grow wild on 3m high shrubs with typical leathery leaves in the sand stone gullies around Sydney.
They are very sought after as cut flowers with prices reaching $20 a stem.
For that reason, they are now hard to find in the wild due to poaching. Even plants growing in private gardens have flowers stolen off them.
Stealing flowers in the wild threatens the survival of some populations. If Waratahs are torn off, they will not flower through the
next season and seeds are prevented from returning to the bushland, They take five years to flower from seedlings. The
species has already disappeared from some of the more 'rural' suburbs.
Our vineyard friends down the road have one shrub. This year it has been flowering profusely.
Telopia means 'seen from afar' and speciosissima means 'beautiful'.