The Australian industry includes production and marketing of Proteaceae for flowers and foliage within the broader category of ‘wildflowers’. We use the name ‘wildflowers’ for flowers and foliage endemic to Australia and South Africa – primarily species from the plant families Proteaceae, Myrtaceae, Rutaceae, Apiaceae, Haemodoraceae, Cunoniaceae, and Agavaceae.

Over two hundred species, varieties, and hybrids from these and other families are grown and sold commercially. Plantations are established in all states of Australia and the ACT, in coastal and near coastal locations and selected inland regions in all states.

In addition, managed harvesting from native Australian species growing in the wild provides a selection of attractive products for florists. Many of these species are very slow growing or very difficult to propagate, making plantation growing unviable. Licensing systems, quotas for specific areas and species, and monitoring of harvested and traded quantities and export permits ensure this part of the industry is sustainable.

Most product comes from 30-40 main genera including Australian genera Actinotus (Flannel flower), Banksia, Boronia, Chamelaucium (wax flower), Ceratopetalum (Christmas bush), Eucalyptus, Grevillea, Telopea (waratahs), Doryanthes (giant lily), kangaroo paw and related Macropidia, Leptospermum, Ozothamnus (rice flower), Scholzia and Thryptomene.
South African genera grown include Berzelia, Brunia, Leucadendron, Leucospermum, Protea and Serruria. As well as flowers and foliage, several genera produce attractive nuts and buds that are also harvested for the market.

There have never been reliable industry statistics available; this is not expected to change as there is no reliable mechanism to gather such data. Therefore, we have no production statistics, detailed lists of products grown commercially or gross value data on our industry.

In the past 5 years the industry has been impacted by drought, bushfires, and then more recently flooding and water-logged soils. Several established growers left the industry, unwilling to re-establish their plantations following at times heavy losses.

More recently, many new growers are starting – either from scratch or having taken over the management of an established farm.

The last 6 months have seen a good supply of flowers on the domestic market, though most florists and wholesalers are starting to feel the effects of an economic slowdown. June and July (our winter) are traditionally slower times so we will see how things go.

Exports from Australia have fallen due to the strong Australian dollar and increases in freight costs, especially during the COVID years. However, COVID also halted flower imports for a considerable time. This sudden fall in flower availability on the domestic market made local florists and consumers more aware of the proportion of imported flowers on our domestic market, which in turn created a greater demand and appreciation of locally grown flowers and foliage. Domestic markets sought out Australian native product in particular, and this increased demand has persisted. However, flower imports are back and include a lot of kangaroo paw as well as a range of traditional flowers.

The most important export markets for Australian wildflowers and foliage remain Japan, the EU and North America.

There has been no government support for the industry since around 2016 – no extension services, no industry development or R&D which in the past supported breeding and selection trials to develop new products as well as propagation and cultivation research. However, private breeders remain active. A successful model has been to link specialist plant breeders with commercial partners who provide long term funding, evaluate new products for their market potential and introduce new varieties into the market. Small numbers of growers are licensed to grow each crop and each pays royalties to keep funding further development.

The Australian wildflower industry is represented nationally by WildFlowers Australia Ltd (WFA), a member-based volunteer organization that works to link the various supply chain members together. Informal grower networks exist in several states – newsletters and farm walks keep their members connected. Each year WFA runs a national student floristry competition to promote awareness and use of wildflowers. In 2023 WFA is looking forward to hosting the first national industry conference in almost 10 years. A key part of the program is a workshop to encourage new or potential growers to establish plantations to supply demand which remains strong and at times exceeds what our growers can produce.

Bettina Gollnow
Communications & Extension Manager, WildFlowers Australia ltd.

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top