Saturday, August 1, 2009


                    on the road yesterday afternoon, Acacia baileyana, declared weed

"Our favourite flower’s the wattle,
The emblem of this land.
You can stick it in a bottle,
You can hold it in your hand.”      

When I was kicking stones along the road of my childhood country town, August 1st was Wattle Day, and Horses Birthday.

Early last Century it was conceived  as a quasi- nationalist day on September 1st, later changed to August 1st, then back to September 1st, which it is now. August 1st in the right day around here, if when the Wattles are at their first flush peak has anything to do with it, and I doubt anymore that it does. As a child I liked it, Wattle Day. What a great idea, a flower day, a flower for a day, a day for a flower, something noone else had, a flower like our Wattle. Made me proud. I feel differently about nationalism these days.

The Wattle is a great choice, the only choice if you must have a national plant. Evolving here since the latter part of the Tertiary period (1.8 to 65 million years ago) they have earned the charming title of Nurse Plant. Carers. In nutrient poor and dry sandy soils Wattles have learnt to live, prosper, take little and contribute a lot. They breath CO2, bind weak soils, increase soil nitrogen, they fertilise, feed small insects, feed birds, and they look stunning. Ever driven west over the Great Divide in August or September and seen the great western planes sweep away from you splashed with gold? If I were a Wattle and some two-legged moron stepped into my multi-million year existence and in a nano-second of time declared me a pest, and ripped me from my soil, and planted Leylandii pines in rows in my place, and said how green and lush they looked, and then planted more, and more, I'd be a bit more than a little annoyed. I'd be pissed.

Increasingly stuck in the city, I had almost forgotten about things Wattly, till The (very) Honorable Sir William Deane floated Wattle sprigs on the icy Swiss waters where 14 Australians had drowned. The symbolism was perfect and I was genuinely touched. It was us, it was inclusive, it was memory, it was our nurse plant, it was them and they were us, and they are here now with you, and we are together. However, the power of any Nationalist symbol didn't ever escape the wiles of that little John Howard. Oh no, the Wattle joined the Akubra as a symbol of us and not you. It became another weapon in his call to separateness.

I love the Wattle. There's a lot down here, and it's fair to say there's Wattle out most of the year, but right now they're at their very best. I picked some this morning. It's through the house. It doesn't give you asthma, old bush woman talk, because the wattle pollen is probably too large to be an allergen. And we played Ann Carr-Boyd's "A Day in Taralga" recorded on the Stuart & Sons Piano.

Acacia terminalis, Sunshine Wattle, near the dam.

No comments: