Telopea Corroboree

Corroboree Waratah
Telopea mongaensis x speciosissima ‘Corroboree’

Etymology

Telopea from Greek telopos, meaning "seen from afar" a reference to the conspicuous flowers

Speciosissima from Latin speciosus, showy and issimus, most.

Corroborree reflects the extended styles which resemble a circle of dancing figures

Native Habitat

Dry sclerophyll forest.

Description

Telopea mongaensis x speciosissima ‘Corroboree’ shrubs with erect, slender, few-branched stems to 3 m high. Smooth leaved except at the top of the bracts (green leaves at the base of the flower) or sparsely to moderately rusty-hairy on axes and lower surface of leaves. 

Flowering

Produces a cluster of flowers between 90–250 flowers in the same flower head which are bright red. The follicles range between 8–15 cm long.

It generally flowers throughout Spring and Summer. 

Location in Garden

Annan, Banksia Garden, bed 153

Information

The New South Wales Waratah Telopea speciosissima is a large, long-lived shrub or tree that generally grows to 3 m in height. After fires, which are common in its natural habitat, a waratah can regenerate from a ‘lignotuber’ - a woody swelling of its stem that lies partly or wholly under the ground.

The easiest way to propagate waratahs is from seed but it is also possible to strike them from cuttings. Seedling plants take about five years to flower, while cuttings may take only two years. Seed pods take about six months to mature, at which time they turn brown and split open. Seeds are winged for wind dispersal and there may be more than 250 seeds on one flowerhead in a good year. Sow seeds in a pot filled with a well-drained seed raising mix, cover with a fine layer of mix and water well. Transplant seedlings into a freely draining potting mix that does not contain any added nutrients and add some slow-release low phosphorus fertiliser several weeks later.

Regular watering is necessary and mulch soil with composted leaf mulch should be used to prevent roots drying out. It can be beneficial to mound up topsoil to 0.5 m high, and to incorporate leaf mulch into the soil. You can see an example of mounding with sand in the Banksia Garden at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan.

The waratahs features strongly in Indigenous Australian legend. They were also used by early European settlers for basket-making and depicted in many everyday items such as paintings and pottery. It was one of the first Australian plants to be collected for cultivation in Europe as it was common in the sandstone country around the first European settlement at Port Jackson.

The waratah was once abundant in many areas of the Sydney metropolitan area, and the species’ survival is now due to its existence in national parks, reserves and relatively inaccessible areas.