Almost every country has a national flower, which reflects the spirit of the people. Although national flowers are not present in every garden or backyard, they still symbolize the history of the country and represent a future in full bloom. Granted, homeowners prefer to grow easy plants and install artificial grass lawns, but they will never neglect or forget their national flowers.
Of all floral symbols, none is as storied as the golden wattle (Acacia pycnantha), the national flower of Australia. It is a beautiful and tough bloom that shows the resilience of the Australian people. Moreover, it is found in all Australian states and territories, making it an apt symbol for a diverse heritage.
History of the Golden Wattle
The story of the golden wattle is as old as that of the Australian. It has thrived in the continent for 35 million years, surviving drought, wind, and bushfires—resilient, just like the people it represents. The golden wattle is bright, round, yellow flowers with long, green leaves, blooming on plants up t eight meters tall.
Indigenous people soaked the gum of the plant in water and honey to produce a sweet, toffee-like candy. They made the most of its antiseptic properties. The wood, pollen, and sap from the wattle trees were used to produce everything from food, medicine, to perfumes. They also forged weapons, musical instruments, tools, and ceremonial decorations.
When colonial settlers arrived, they cultivated the golden wattle further. They used the bark of the plants to fuel the tanning industry. They also used the gum to create glue and extracted honey from the flowers.
Becoming the Official Emblem
The people continued to make the most of the golden wattle until it captured public imagination during the First World War. Since the war efforts had drained the national treasury, wattles were sold to raise money. Soldiers and their loved ones pressed wattles in letters to each other. And when people bury the fallen, they leave a sprig of wattle on the grave.
In 1912, Prime Minister Andrew Fisher suggested to include the wattle as a decoration surrounding the Commonwealth Coat of Arms. The golden wattle was even more dignified when it was worn by Queen Elizabeth II during her coronation in June 1953, alongside other floral emblems such as the lotus flower of India, the protea of South Africa, the maple leaf of Canada, and the fern of New Zealand.
Then in August 1988, the then Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen proclaimed the golden wattle as the official floral emblem of Australia.
Today, every national sports team is cheered on by a crowd of gold and green—colors inspired by the golden wattle. Moreover, the designs of the Order of Australia, several Australian Defence Force honors, and the National Emergency Medal are all inspired by the flower.
Today, Australians celebrate Wattle Day on September 1, when everyone wears a sprig of wattle or the national colors, green and gold. People also organize picnics, lunches, or barbeques with family and friends. It’s a day when everybody reflects how, just like the golden wattle, Australians are diverse and resilient. They will weather whatever storm comes their way and bloom abundantly on Australian soil.