Today it is National Wattle Day. There is a new $5 note going into distribution today featuring native wattle, the Prickly Moses Wattle. It’s actually really special because for the very first time the notes feature tactile markings for the visually impaired which is a pretty big deal! Wattle Day also heralds the first day of Spring! SPRING!!! Hoorah!!
Here in Melbourne we’ve had a handful of lovely days over the past few weeks that have tempted me away from my desk. The sun has had some much needed warmth to it, blossoms have started to appear and the butterflies are back! A little glimpse of what’s to come (before we are all start complaining of 40 degree heat at least!)!
I love seeing that first sprig of wattle peaking through the grey of Winter. Yellow, sunny and warm. Growing up we had a big old wattle tree in our front yard. I remember one Summer finding dozens upon dozens of ladybugs gracing it’s branches! Wattle is special.
Colouring the bushland with yellow blaze
You warm the last of winter’s days
Bending with your weight of gold
The promise of springtime you unfold.
Although different Acacias (wattles) are found throughout the world, Australia has over 1000 native species. Wattle has become a unique symbol of Australia for Australians. As of 1988 the Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) officially became Australia’s national floral emblem. The iconic green and gold.
Wattle has played a part in Australia’s history. Indigenous Australians used wattle as a source of food, medicine and wood. In 1899 a Wattle Club was formed in Victoria by field naturalist Mr A. J. Campbell (pictured below leaning against the tree). Campbell was a field naturalist with a passion for native Acacia (wattle) and Australian birds. The Wattle Club organised bush outings on the first day in Spring. During a speech in 1908 Mr Campbell made the first suggestion of a Wattle Day. The first official Wattle Day was held in 1910 and was celebrated in NSW, Victoria and South Australia. In 1913, the National Wattle Day League was established to organise the celebration of Wattle Day. Popular activities included planting wattle trees in schools, lessons on botany, street decorations of wattle blossom, wearing sprigs of wattle and raising money for charity.
Wattle became a strong symbol of patriotism during the war years. Sprigs of wattle were often sent overseas in letters as a symbol of ‘home’ and bunches of wattle were given to returning servicemen. Wattle Day badges (like the ones pictured at the top of the page) were sold to raise money for organisations such as The Red Cross. It wasn’t until 1992 that September 1 was officially made the date for National Wattle Day.
In 2016, Wattle Day looks to the future, celebrating Australia and the Australian spirit. Wattle Day badges are still sold today to raise money for community causes such as the Rural Bush Fire Brigade. Wattle Day has the potential to be a day of unity and celebration. Symbolising diversity, resilience and renewal.
My girls went off to school today with a sprig of wattle pinned to their shirts. Wishing everyone a Happy Wattle Day!
More Wattle goodness:
- The Wattle Day Association
- World Wide Wattle – The most comprehensive website on all things ‘wattle’
- Rod Panter’s brief to parliament (found here) is an interesting read with some excellent points on how and why Wattle Day should be embraced nationally as our ‘National Day’.
- Amnesty International’s article on ‘The date that should unite all Australians’
- My Dad (Jim Low) wrote a song about wattle and it’s ‘fluffy flowers’ and we used to sing it at primary school. You can hear it over here The Wattle Song.
- A short biography and a fantastic short video by Museum Victoria where Rebecca Carland (Curator History of Collections at Museum Victoria) reflects on the passions of naturalist and ornithologist A J Campbell.
- Search the Museum Victoria Collections for ‘wattle’! There are some fantastic images (like some of those above) and lots of information available
- A great article by Abbie Thomas at the ABC Science about Winter Wattles
- The Australian National Botanic Gardens fact page is also worth a look.
- Allergy information suggests Wattle often gets a raw deal! Sources suggest it’s actually unlikely Wattle is the culprit! That is good news for Wattle Day. More info here and here!