The common name ‘Waratah’ was coined by Australian Aborigines and means ‘red-flowering tree’. The botanical name ‘Telopea’ means ‘seen from afar’, and ‘speciosissima’ means 'most beautiful'. The Waratah truly is a most beautiful plant, especially when in flower, and was described by early botanists as the ‘most magnificent plant’ in New Holland. Now symbolically instated as the floral emblem of NSW, the Waratah has become arguably the most famous and recognisable Australian plant.
Waratahs feature in Aboriginal legend. They were also used by early European settlers for basket-making — among other uses — and they are depicted in many everyday items such as paintings and pottery. They have been used for company logos and as architectural ornamentation, and the name has been used for towns, steamships and even football teams.
The flower was so popular that efforts were made in the early 1940's to stop harvesting the flowers from the wild and to protect the plant - to conserve it in case it disappears.