LIKE all love affairs, Australia's romance with wattle has had its up and downs.
According to a social history by Maria Hitchcock being launched today to mark the 102nd anniversary of the first celebration of Wattle Day, the love affair began in 1838 when colonists in old Hobart Town wore silver wattle to a ceremony to commemorate Tasman's ''discovery'' of Van Diemens Land. They seized on wattle because it lit up the bush in spring, regardless of the shade of yellow.
The love affair continued until after World War I.
''There were wattle waltzes and wattle songs, and you could smoke Wattle brand cigarettes and drink Foster's Wattle beer,'' writes Mrs Hitchcock in her new book A Celebration of Wattle.
By the 1950s and '60s, Australia's passion for wattle had flagged. It took a migrant to see its beauty afresh.
Mrs Hitchcock, a postwar refugee from Austria, said she was surprised to discover wattle had not been gazetted as Australia's floral emblem.
Supported by the ABC's bush radio star Ian McNamara, the presenter of Australia All Over, she pushed, cajoled and lobbied politicians.
Now known as the Wattle Lady, Mrs Hitchcock was responsible for the gazetting of Acacia pycnantha (golden wattle) as Australia's floral emblem in 1988 and of National Wattle Day, to be celebrated on September 1 each year.