Tree Waratah

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Surprisingly, this beautiful Australian rainforest native is not as popular as it deserves to be. It is a member of the family Proteaceae, which includes grevilleas, banksias and waratahs. The tree is fairly slow growing and may not flower for seven or eight years, especially if propagated from seed. However, the spectacular waratah-like red flowers are well worth the wait.

Plant details

Common name: Tree Waratah or Red Silky Oak
Botanical name: Alloxylon flammeum. The tree has been plagued by name changes and was known previously as Oreocallis wickhamii and Embothrium wickhamii.
Description: Medium sized evergreen tree to about 10 metres (30′) tall. Clusters of bright orange/crimson flowers appear near the branch ends in late spring and early summer, followed by woody fruits. The foliage is dark green, leathery and often lobed
Best climate: The tree waratah grows best in the warmer parts of Australia. It is frost sensitive, so if you live in a cold area consider planting the related Chilean Firebush (Embothrium coccineum) instead.

Good points

beautiful red to orange/red flowers highly bird attracting bushy growth habit grows easily from cuttings or seed

Likes

full sun ample moisture well drained soil with a high organic content shelter from strong winds

Dislikes

root disturbance poorly drained or heavy soils frost

Care: If rainfall is inadequate, the tree will need deep, regular watering throughout the warmer months. Yellowing of foliage after planting may indicate an iron deficiency which can be treated with chelated iron or iron sulphate (available at nurseries). Only use fertiliser specially formulated for native plants.

Getting started: Available in NSW and QLD from some specialist native nurseries, may be difficult to obtain in other states.

Further reading:

For more information on Alloxylon flammeum and other tree waratahs, see Betty Maloney’s article in the October edition of the Burke’s Backyard Magazine. It’s available at newsagents now for $4.20.