It’s Australia Day here in the land down-under. And while people are lighting up the BBQ, donning the esky with ice and beer or heading down the beach for a spot of family cricket, I’m about to embark on a debate of epic proportions. I’m about to challenge …(drum roll)…the instituted national flower – as you would!
Prior to the colonisation of Australia in 1788, Capt. James Cook’s Endeavour arrived in Botany Bay, Sydney with one very special botanist onboard. He was, of course, none other than Joseph Banks. Banks was the one attributed to discovering one genus of the Protaceae family, the Banksia (which is my favourite Aussie plant BTW).
Yet, Australia recognises the Golden Wattle Acacia pycnantha as our floral emblem – a severe injustice upon our Banksia’s.
Sure, A. pycnantha doesn’t grow naturally anywhere else in the world yet acacias, as a genus, are found all through Africa and South America. Good luck trying to find an indigenous Banksia growing in another continent. And it’s for this reason that we should re-examine whether this genus should be adopted as our floral icon.
So, why was the Banksia overlooked? See it all has to do with how the rest of Australia views Western Australia. While the US sorted out their problems early on with a Civil War, Australia still festers with a Cold War between the East and the West – and the East have some serious issues. As a state we’ve often thought about seceding but felt sorry for the rest of Oz losing half their economy, half their country and obviously more than half their intelligence.
Where does the Banksia fit into all this? Well…of the nearly 80 species that grow in Australia, about 90% are only found in WA. Therefore, if Australia were to recognise the Banksia as our national flower they would be admitting that WA is responsible for most of the good things this country has to offer. Sure, it’s a giant leap of a statement to make but one that I’m willing to be quoted on.
So, in my most Australian attitude of brazeness and willingness to challenge all adopted norms, I’m about to embark on a plea to our National Leaders to have the current floral emblem scrapped. However, I need your help and so am conducting this very objective survey. The answers will be collated and presented as the world’s view of the best plant to be Australia’s national flower.