The characteristic flora of one Melbourne region ended up giving it its name – but only in the most roundabout fashion. Originally, the area in question was known as Collina, and back in the 1920s when the local train station was being built, that was the name it was originally called, named after a transvestite burlesque artist who was greatly beloved of the then-planning Minister.
However, the creation of the Simpson Military Barracks in the southern reaches of the suburb changed all that. Largely populated by veterans of the Boer War and their sons, the Barracks grew a profusion of a flower that these soldiers had encountered at around the same time that Harry Morant was demanding that people shoot straight. It was a variety of iris, a genus named Watsonia, and before long, all 52 extant species of the Watsonia could be found all over the locality, seeds blown from gardens tended with military precision to grow wild in the gullies to the north and east of the barracks.
Only an extensive cull, launched as a work-for-veterans scheme in 1947, succeeded in bringing the floral invaders back under control – although it should be noted that it was a species of control that took some weeks to cool off and stop smoking.
When the ashes finally cleared, and the new growth of the following spring finally burst through, an opportunistic land developer named Charlie Watson sold off many parcels of land in the area at inflated prices, and incidentally claimed to be the man that the suburb was named after – a claim still taught at Watsonia Primary School as recently as 1993.
Suburbs near Watsonia: