The Cooktown orchid became known as Queensland's floral emblem in 1959, during celebrations to mark the state's centenary.
Before this, the distinctive native flower had long been popularly considered as Queensland’s unofficial floral emblem. This was according to a government-sponsored newspaper public opinion poll taken in the centenary year.
The State Parliament endorsed the popular choice in the now repealed Badge, Arms, Floral and Other Emblems of Queensland Act 1959.
The orchid was commemorated in 1968 on the 25-cent stamp and, more recently, on the $1.20 stamp in 1998.
About the Cooktown orchid
The Cooktown orchid (Dendrobium bigibbum) is native to Queensland's northern tropics and is named after the northern Queensland town of Cooktown. It grows on trees and rocks in well-watered areas of the Cape York Peninsula.
Each plant flowers for up to six weeks in autumn and winter, with individual flowers reaching between three and six centimetres in width. Similar to the state colour of maroon, the Cooktown orchid is usually purple in colour, although varieties with white or white-spotted flowers have also been found.
The Cooktown orchid is relatively easy to cultivate as a garden specimen in frost-free areas of coastal Queensland. It requires a well-drained, sunny position, protected from cold winds. A bed of loose charcoal or bark is suitable for growing it, and it can also be cultivated on tree trunks or branches.