The amazing ‘Scarlet Blaze’ red wattle
For most people, wattles (scientifically known as Acacia) are recognisable by their cream or yellow-coloured flowers. There are 1200 Acacia species in the world. Of these, 950 are indigenous to Australia and none have red flowers. Yet, if you make the journey to the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, you will be able to see a remarkable red-flowered form of Acacia leprosa in bloom!
The flowers of A. leprosa ‘Scarlet Blaze’
The history of the red-flowered Cinnamon Wattle started in 1995 when two bush walkers found a single mutant seedling growing in a Victorian forest, 40 kilometres north-east of Melbourne. Upon discovery, 12 cuttings were removed and forwarded to the Royal Botanic Gardens. Only two of these cuttings survived, which was just as well because the original plant has since died. It was from these two cuttings that thousands of plants would eventually be produced.
The plant could not be propagated by seed because it was believed seedlings would produce yellow flowers, just like the parent plants. This turned out to be the case, so only cuttings or micropropagation could be used to propagate the red wattle and ensure the flowers maintain their crimson-red colour.
The genetic basis of the mutation has not been tested. The flower’s red colouration is derived from the filament of the flower. The anther remains a golden yellow colour typical of the species.
Flower detail, showing the red filaments and yellow anthers
In 1998, the Royal Botanic Gardens applied for Plant Breeders’ Rights over the mutant red wattle, and the application was accepted on 7 September that year. ‘Scarlet Blaze’ was chosen as the name for the new cultivar.
The red wattle was selected as Victoria’s floral emblem for the Centenary of Federation celebrations in 2001. The Minister for Environment and Conservation, Sherryl Garbutt, planted a specimen at the Royal Botanic Gardens on 4 September that year. However, the plant became very sickly and was silently replaced by gardens staff a number of times.
The species was developed commercially by Plant Growers Australia and released to the public in 2003 with much fanfare.
The weeping branches of A. leprosa ‘Scarlet Blaze’ growing
at the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne
The current specimen at the Royal Botanic Gardens was planted at that time, and has since grown to more than 5 metres in height and several metres in width. In the last week, it has burst into bloom and is peppered with delicate, crimson red flowers. The branches have a weeping habit and provide an attractively dense canopy.
If you want to see Acacia leprosa ‘Scarlet Blaze’ for yourself, it’s planted in a garden bed behind the National Herbarium of Victoria building. It is well worth a look!
References and Further Information:
- Cross, R. (2001) Acacia leprosa ‘Scarlet Blaze’: A vintage red for Victoria’s Federation Flower. Australian Plants 21 (169): 205-207
- Nader, C. (2001) A lucky find makes floral history. The Age, 5 September, p.9
- Purdy, G. (2003) Wattle next. Herald-Sun, 5 July, p.W26.
You can see a comparative photo of A. leprosa and A. leprosa ‘Scarlet Blaze’ here.