I was once told that there is a different species of wattle that flowers in Australia every day of the year.
While every year I see this happy flower in bloom around us in New South Wales during the winter and early spring months, I wondered where it was for the rest of the year, so I did some research.
And in fact, they were right! There are over 1000 species of wattles, growing all over Australia, including in dry, arid areas, tropical and sub-tropical areas, and even in alpine areas, and, on any given day of the year there is a wattle – or rather many wattles – flowering somewhere in Australia.
But what I also discovered during my research, is that wattle has an even more diverse history than I realised!!
To start with, Indigenous Australians have used wattles for thousands of years for many different purposes, from food and medicines, to utensils such as digging sticks and barbs, weapons (clubs, shields, boomerangs, spear throwers, spear shafts and heads), musical instruments such as clap sticks; firewood, ash, glues, string, dyes and waterproofing, sandals and head decorations, ceremonial items and seasonal signals.
And in the early days of European settlement, wattle saplings were used by British settlers to provide the framework for houses and buildings, and wattle bark was one our our first export industries. This was called "wattling".
Acacia pycnantha, Golden Wattle by Cheryl Hodges
More recently, wattle has been a symbol of Australian identity. For a start, it is on our National Emblem, and is reflected in our sporting colours! Also, for a long time during the late 1800's and early 1900's, "wattle wearing" became a thing, as people pinned wattle to their jackets and dresses as a show of national pride, and many parts of Australia, while not so popular now, in 1910, the first Wattle Day was celebrated on the 1 September. It was since declared a National Day by the Governor General in 1992.
Soldiers wearing sprigs of wattle in London during WW1
Queen Elizabeth II wearing the golden wattle dress, designed by Norman Hartnell, to a State Dinner in Sydney in 1954.
A woman buying wattle on Wattle Day.
Throughout this time, despite being a distinctly Aussie flower, most species certainly native to Australia, some other species grow in Africa, Asia and America. Wattle was also taken to Europe a long time ago, where it is known as "Mimosa".
Well all of this has made me love wattle even more than I did before. Let's bring back Wattle Day, I say!!!!