13 Sep, 2018

lifestyle

Six things you need to know about Wattle

Six things you need to know about Wattle

 

As our landscape turns shades of yellow and green, we're reminded of the inspiration behind Australia’s national colours and national flower. Our golden wattle has been used by Indigenous Australians for millennia, transformed into food, medicine, dyes and perfumes, to name but a few. Resilient to drought, wind and bushfire, this symbol of our nation has inspired many a bush poet and artist and of course, is also highly prized in perfume making for its intoxicating scent. Read on for more facts about our national flower.

 A beautiful, fragrant absolute essential oil can be distilled from the flowers of certain species of fragrant Wattle, also known as Mimosa. Used as a key ingredient in perfumes all over the world, Wattle has a wonderful, rich, sweet floral, honey and woody aroma. Uplifting, relaxing and calming, Wattle also improves moods, aids happiness and calms noisy children.

Australia’s First Peoples have inhabited the continent for more than 65,000 years, and they utilised acacias for a number of purposes before British colonisation. The wood, pollen and sap from wattle trees was transformed into food, medicine, weapons, tools, musical instruments, glues, dyes, perfumes and ceremonial decoration. Blooming in spring, the golden flowers also signified seasonal events such as whales arriving on the coast or eels appearing in rivers.

Australian artist Sir William Dargie was an eight-time winner of the Archibald Prize for portraiture and an accomplished war artist with the Australian forces during the Second World War. He was commissioned by Melbourne industrialist James P Beveridge as the first Australian to paint the portrait of the newly-crowned Queen. Dargie depicted the Queen wearing a Norman Hartnell mimosa gold tulle dress adorned with sparkling gold wattle motifs. This glowing colour scheme skilfully conveys the freshness of the youthful Queen in an almost impressionistic style. Her direct gaze conveys her vitality through skilful effecting of thoughtful eyes and expressive mouth. The portrait is commonly thought to present an unusual juxtaposition of a graceful young woman and a regal Queen.The Queen loved it so much she ordered a personal copy.

The gold is inspired by golden wattle while the green evokes the forests, eucalyptus trees and pastures of the Australian landscape. The flag might be red, white and blue but Australian sporting teams have been wearing green and gold on their uniforms since the late 1800s. The hues were officially recognised as Australia’s national colours in 1984 by Sir Ninian Stephen, Governor-General of Australia. 

 

A sprig of wattle has appeared on the official symbol of the Commonwealth of Australia since 1912 … but it’s botanically incorrect. The Wattle depicted on the Coat of Arms appears to be a stylised illustration and is not a botanically accurate representation of acacia pycnantha (Golden Wattle) which is now the official Australian floral emblem.

With the debate over whether Australia should cut ties with the British Commonwealth and become an independent republic murmuring in the background, there’s a strong campaign to swap the anachronistic current flag with a more authentic national symbol. The existing flag carries the Union Jack in its corner, and there’s a lot of support to replace it with something unambiguously Australian such as the stylish Golden Wattle Flag.