There is really a white waratah.
It occurs in New South Wales and in Tasmania.
It is not a distinct variety unless we consider a flower a variety simply because of its colour.
The white of New South Wales and that of Tasmania are speciosissima and truncata respectively, though the plants always bear blooms of the colour even though they are in close proximity to those of the usual glowing red.
In Tasmania white waratahs are in some profusion. In New South Wales pink ones have been found, and they surely have in some way been impregnated. Occasionally the white ones have had a creamy tinge at the base of the pistils and in such cases the flowers have obtained some food that is usually the property of the foliage.
In New South Wales white waratahs have been found, and may still be found at Mittagong, at Sherbrooke and on the Jamberoo Mountain.
The natives of Sherbrooke had a legend of the changing of the white to red, and perhaps this story shows that it was believed that the first were white and the change to red was a later tffect. Of this we are not sure.
In the dense dark jungle there, a sleek and beautiful wonga pigeon lived. The rich soil in the gullied and sunken flats produced wonderful vegetation. Supplejacks and bloodwoods, cedars and monstrous turpentine! Great bushy lillypillies, overgrown myrtles, big laurels, towering eucalypts (E. Consideniana, the White Ash, E. Smithii, even E. Sieberiana, the Silver-top) shut out the daylight. Climbing plants grew there, with sweet smelling Sassafras (Atherosperma moschatum) and white Musk Daisy-bush (Olearia argophylla). In their shade the Flying Fox had camped for centuries unmolested.
Underfoot, the carpet of dark fallen leaves was feet thick. Down in there the horrible leech waved and swayed in his blind search for an animal to fasten upon in order to get his fill of blood, while the brown bottle-tick lost no time in detaching himself from his habitat to bury his proboscis in some unfortunate passer-by, in the same quest as the leech.
In there, too, were gorgeous parrots and pretty pigeons and bower-birds, and tits and wrens, and such a host of the feathered tribes as to make them seem like a moving mass of wings and swaying feathers.
Big brush wallabies softly hopped or curled in a tangled bower; the bush rat and the bandicoot peeked from their seclusion, and the native cat slunk about as only felines can.
There, in this deep, dank, dark, sweet-smelling Australian jungle stepped daintily and cooed quickly and loudly, that proud wonga.
Sailing serenely up above it all were the hawk and the eagle.
While the wonga remained indoors she was safe.
Up over the cliff, where the country was flat, the bush was rocky and open and dry. A dryer air pervaded, the ground was no carpet of fallen leaves, but a hot, sandy or gravelled area with but few fallen leaves, for there was no underscrub.
The hawk's piercing eye saw every move there.
The white waratah gazed skyward and felt dreadfully alone. All around the waratahs grew and perhaps they were red, and this one was the only one without colour, and it longed to be crimson like its neighbours of its own botanical genus.
The handsome wonga had lost her mate. Her grey spots glowed against their bed of white; her little pink legs strode briskly on, and she scratched and scratched and turned up insects and grubs, and she fed well.
But when her thoughts turned to companionship she discovered that she was lonely. So she coo-ed and coo-ed, ever more and more rapidly, and in higher and higher tones.
She stretched herself upon tip-toes and searched the jungle. She ceased to look for a surfeit of food, and she stepped on and on, always approaching the creek where beyond it the cliff rose, and above it was the open forest.
Up out there she would go!
So she opened her wings, and, heavy as she was, she rose with a great and ponderous flapping.
Increasing her speed, she swept by the trees over the brook, and up the cliff, alighting just at the foot of the white waratah.
Then she heard the call of her mate.
Foolish bird that she was!
He was still down in the darkened jungle.
His morning could not have been so successful as hers, or he was hungrier to start with, or perhaps he required more.
She opened her wings again.
A rush through the air, like a streak of lightning or a shooting star!
The hawk was down through the branchless space and upon the beautiful wonga beneath the white waratah.
But she was heavier than he reckoned.
There was a struggle, and in it a whirl of feathers-white and grey and green and golden-shimmered!
The hawk certainly rose, but he did not carry the wonga far.
The pigeon was torn, and her life was ebbing with the flow of her blood. Her last struggle was her release, and from a height of a few feet she wrenched herself free and fell upon the white waratah. Her little claws grasped the colourless pistils.
The eagle above all espied the hawk, and he had then to fight another battle in which he was the loser.
So the white waratah was stained with the blood of the wonga pigeon, and the bird, still clinging to the reddened pistils, died.
Later, the white waratah threw out its clusters of follicles, and they were streaked with red.
The seeds were streaked in the same way.
And all the plants that came from them bore flowers as red as waratahs could be.
But they had to wait for three years to know that.
Not so the parent bush. Always afterwards its flowers were white, and whenever the natives saw one such bloom they pricked their fingers and allowed their blood to stain it.
Therefore there are not many white waratahs in New South Wales.