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8 Oct 2019

What do wallabies, silver ferns and cherry blossoms have in common?

The Rugby World Cup 2019 has officially kicked off in Japan, with 20 teams playing 48 matches over the course of 7 weeks to determine which nation will be victorious.

Each team is represented by an emblem – typically a plant or animal - that is proudly displayed on players’ uniforms, scoreboard and supporter gear.

Whether or not you’re a sports fan, learn about a few of the symbols that represent competing teams, and where you can find them at our Botanic Gardens.


Australia | The Wallabies
Swamp Wallabies call the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan home

Australia’s national men’s Rugby Union team is known as the Wallabies, with Wally the Wallaby the team mascot. Australia played its first Rugby Union International in 1899, but it wasn’t until 1908 that they officially adopted the name.

According to Wallabies.Rugby, when the Australian team ventured to the British Isles for the first international game, the English media nicknamed the team “the Rabbits”. The Australian players decided to instead brand themselves as “The Wallabies”, and they went on to win 33 out of 39 tour matches.

If you’re lucky, you may see native mammals like the Swamp Wallaby or Wallaroos at The Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan in their natural woodland and grassland habitats. The best time to try and spot them is early or late in the day - look along creek areas for Wallabies and in open areas around the Central Valley and Cunningham Drive for Wallaroos.

New Zealand

New Zealand | All Blacks
The Silver Fern is also known as Ponga or Cyathea dealbata

The current world #1 ranked men’s Rugby Union team is the New Zealand All Blacks, represented by the Silver Fern since the 1880s. Why a Silver Fern? Here’s the story from 100% Pure New Zealand:

According to Māori legend, the silver fern once lived in the sea. It was asked to come and live in the forest to play a significant role in guiding the Māori people. Māori hunters and warriors used the silver underside of the fern leaves to find their way home. When bent over, the fronds would catch the moonlight and illuminate a path through the forest.

If you want to see this iconic symbol of New Zealand, you can find a Silver Fern or Ponga (Cyathea dealbata of the Cyatheaceae family) in the Fernery at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney


Japan | Brave Blossoms
Did you know that the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden has 20 different ornamental Prunus species in the collection?

Host nation and the first Asian country to host the Rugby World Cup, Japan, are known as the Brave Blossoms or Cherry Blossoms. While the national flower of Japan is Chrysanthemum, Japan is famous for showstopping Cherry Blossom or Sakura displays in spring, as represented by the white and red striped jerseys of their national Rugby Union team.

The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah is home to 20 different ornamental Prunus species, hybrids and cultivars. An avenue of Yoshino Cherries (Prunus x yedoensis) lining the main entrance driveway flowered earlier last month. The beautiful Prunus serrulata “Shirotae” and other late-flowering sato-zakura cultivars also flowered early and even experienced an early bud-burst of new leaves while the flowers were still on the trees.

The transience of the flowering period has cultivated a special appreciation for flowering cherries in our passionate Horticulture team at Mount Tomah.


Red Rose at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
England's national flower is the Rose

The English Rugby team’s emblem is a rose. The flower depicted is an amalgam of the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster, the two main protagonists in the War of the Roses.

It was adopted by Henry VII of the Tudor monarchy as England’s national flower as a symbol of unity following this civil war, and, today, the rose is still widely used to represent many English sporting teams and institutions.

If you want to stop and smell the roses, the Palace Rose Garden at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney is an unmissable highlight. See the diversity and beauty of the Rosa genus and admire the creativity of our horticulturists who have planted ‘Formal,’ ‘Romantic’ and ‘Flamboyant’ themed beds.

Do you know the stories behind other Rugby Union national teams' emblems? Tell us in the comments.

If you want to learn more about the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan and the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah, join one of our tours.

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