Telopea oreades

Gippsland Waratah, Mountain Waratah, Victorian Waratah

Family: Proteaceae

A shrub or tree to 12 metres high potentially, often multi-stemmed and with a lignotuber.

It grows naturally in NSW and Victoria. In NSW, it grows as far as the Braidwood-Nelligen-Monga area where, interestingly, it grows in the same habitat as T. mongaensis and hybrids of the two are known from there. It grows disjunctly further south, from Bombala and further south-east towards Eden.

In Victoria, it grows in the general north-eastern corner as far west and south as Orbost and well north of here back towards the NSW border. 

It is found in wet sclerophyll forest and rainforest on rich acidic soils high in organic matter.

Telopea spp. have simple and alternate leaves, although unevenly distributed in a spiral around the stems. In this species, adult leaves are up to 30 cm long, to 6 cm wide, narrow-obovate to spathulate with entire margins and with veins more pronounced on the lower surface, hairless and dull-dark green.

Juvenile leaves are shorter and sometimes 3-lobed. Intermediate leaves are entire.

Telopea spp. have inflorescences referred to as “condensed heads” which are actually made up of racemes of pair flowers, fused together in a conflorescence. The head is surrounded by an involucre (overlapping whorls) of enlarged leafy-bracts. Each flower is a typical Proteaceae flower with a perianth of 4 tepals, 4 anthers and 1 carpel. In this species, the flowers, each about 5 cm long, are deep red, occurring in heads of up to 100 mm in diameter, consisting of up to 60 flowers, occurring in winter to spring. The bracts subtending the flower heads are to 75 mm long, pink and/or green, not as showy as in T. speciosissima. 

The fruit of Telopea is a follicle. In this species, they are up to 7 cm long. Seeds have one wing.

In the garden

This species is known to be cultivated and can basically be treated the same as T. mongaensis (which is generally a smaller plant with narrower leaves). 

In a garden situation, it grows best in soils with good drainage and ample moisture in part-shaded or sunny positions. It prefers an acidic soil which can be enriched with some compost or well-composted organic fertilisers. 

Several commercially available cultivars that are hybrid forms with T. speciosissima have been developed, such as the ‘Shady Lady’ series. 

Prune off spent flower-heads to encourage more the following season (this might be done to admire cut flowers inside).


Propagation is by seed, the germination rates of which decrease significantly after several months’ storage unless refrigerated, or by cuttings of new growth that has just hardened. 

Cultivars must be propagated by cutting to make daughter plants identical to the parent.

Other information

The Gippsland Waratah was first formally described by the Victorian Government Botanist Ferdinand von Mueller in 1861. The type material was collected in rugged mountainous country around Nungatta Creek, a tributary of the Genoa River in south-eastern New South Wales.

Telopea is an endemic genus of five species of large shrubs or small trees. There are currently four recognised species in NSW with one of these, T. oreades, occurring in Victoria. One other species, T. truncata, occurs only in Tasmania.

Several hybrids with T. speciosissima have been developed. Red, pink and even white-flowered cultivars are available. These include:

  • Telopea ‘Champagne’ 
  • Telopea ‘Golden Globe’. It has been propagated and sold as ‘Shady Lady Yellow’. 
  • Telopea ‘Shady Lady Red’ is a larger shrub that may reach 5 m high and 2 or 3 m wide. 
  • Telopea ‘Shady Lady White’ is a white-flowered hybrid.
  • Telopea ‘Shady Lady Pink’ is the result of a cross between ‘Shady Lady Red’ and ‘Shady Lady White’. 
  • Telopea ‘Shady Lady Crimson’ is a selected colour-form developed from ‘Shady Lady Red’. 

The timber of T. oreades is hard and has been used for making furniture and tool handles.

Telopea spp. usually cope with fire well and regenerate from the lignotuber as well as any seedbank. A fire event usually promotes good flowering displays, usually two to three years after fire.

Telopea – from Greek tilopos (τηλωπος) meaning “seen from afar” or “one who sees at a great distance” a reference to the conspicuous flowers which are conspicuous at any distance. The genus was first described by Robert Brown in 1810 from the type species Telopea speciosissima.

oreadesfrom the Ancient Greek oreias (oρειάς) or oreads – which means ‘mountain nymph’ and refers to the female mythical creatures who inhabited the mountains – capturing the habitat of the species. 

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild. 

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Telopea oreades profile page https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Telopea~oreades 

Australian Native Plants Society (Australia) Telopea oreades profile page https://anpsa.org.au/plant_profiles/telopea-oreades/

Wikipedia – Telopea oreades profile page  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telopea_oreades

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke