Restricted to two small sites in south-western WA, this wattle is listed as an endangered species. Nursery-grown plants are being used to establish additional populations in the face of threats, such as rising soil salinity. Its thin branching leaves form a dense, rounded shrub, which glows yellow when in bloom.

    Photo Credit: Heidi Willis

    PURPLE-FLOWERED WATTLE Acacia purpureapetala

    This critically endangered wattle is another with atypically coloured flowers. It’s found only on the high, rocky slopes of a few mountains in far north QLD, and there are only an estimated 500 left in the wild. Although there’s much interest in its mauve-pink flowers, it has proven difficult to cultivate.

    Photo Credit: Heidi Willis

    RED-STEMMED WATTLE Acacia rubida

    Growing on hilly terrain across the Great Dividing Range, the red-stemmed wattle can reach a height of about 5m. As with most wattles, it flowers in early spring and attracts pollinators such as bees, wasps and beetles. Wattle flowers lack nectar but pollinators swarm to collect abundant protein-rich pollen.

    Photo Credit: Heidi Willis

    MULGA Acacia aneura

    This wattle is prolific across much of the inland. There are about 10 varieties — these typically form shrubs growing up to 2-3m tall in arid areas and up to 10m tall in wetter environments. Mulga is drought-tolerant and can live for more than 50 years. Its seeds are important in traditional bush tucker— they can be cooked or ground into a paste.

    Photo Credit: Heidi Willis

    SCARLET BLAZE Acacia leprosa

    Most wattles, including the majority of individuals of this species, have yellow flowers. But a form with pink flowers was discovered in 1995 in north-eastern Melbourne. The Royal Botanic Gardens cultivated the scarlet variety from seeds and it is now a popular garden variety. Also known as the cinnamon wattle, because of the scent of its leaves, it’s the only Australian acacia with red flowers.

    Photo Credit: Heidi Willis

    MYRTLE WATTLE Acacia myrtriolia

    Common along Australia’s south-east coast and parts of southern WA, this medium-sized shrub grows to about 2m in height. Because it has red branches contrasted against pale-cream flowers, it is sometimes called the ‘red-stemmed wattle’. As with most acacias, the seeds have a fleshy covering — the aril — which attracts ants.

    Photo Credit: Heidi Willis

    BLAKE’S WATTLE Acacia blaker

    Common in the northern NSW tablelands and southern QLD, Blake’s wattle grows in soils derived from shale. As with many wattles, this species does not have true leaves when mature. They are reduced and the leaf stems form large flattened ‘phyllodes’ that play the part of true leaves.

    Photo Credit: Heidi Willis

    SPIKE WATTLE Acacia oxycedrus

    Short, pointed leaves give this tree its common name — and a painful shock to those who venture too close. As with other wattles, each hairy-looking ‘flower’ is actually an inflores-cence of many small flowers blooming together. The pale-yellow, cylindrical inflores-cences of A. oxycedrus extend beyond its short leaves. This is a spreading shrub that can grow to about 10m across.

    Photo Credit: Heidi Willis

In pictures: Australian wattle

By AG STAFF | August 29, 2017

Wattles belong to the plant genus Acacia, which contains about 1350 species worldwide, including 1000 in Australia. Ranging from trees to minuscule shrubs, acacias dominate many of our landscapes. On the first day of spring is National Wattle Day, marking the moment in history when the Golden Wattle was made Australia’s official floral emblem. Text by James O’Hanlon.