Spring is almost upon us and local gardens and bushland are starting to glow as the wattles begin their annual floral extravaganza. Australia is home to nearly 1000 different acacias or wattles.
About 60 wattles occur on the Northern Tablelands. With this many species, there is a wattle for every horticultural situation as they range in size from groundcovers to trees.
Wattles are fast-growing and free-flowering and once established, have low water requirements. They require little maintenance but appreciate being pruned after flowering. As the flowers fade, cut off each branch behind the spent blooms. This stimulates new growth, keeps the foliage dense and promotes flowering.
We should say a word about wattle foliage. Some species have ferny foliage while others have what appear to be leaves but are modified leaf stalks (petioles) known as phyllodes. This is an adaptation to reduce water loss.
Acacia filicifolia is one of the first wattles to flower in the spring season.
This time, we will describe some tall wattles suitable for cultivation locally which are all native to our region.
Acacia dealbata, the silver wattle, will reach a height in excess of 20 metres with a conifer-like growth habit. The dense, ferny foliage is silvery-green (hence the common name). Golden yellow flowers are carried in globular clusters. The foliage provides a contrast with the flowers. This is an attractive tree because even when not in flower, the foliage is an attractive feature.
The silver wattle is widespread in the New England region. The species grows along the highway around the Devil’s Pinch and further south is prominent around Apsley Falls. Acacia dealbata is also widespread in Victoria.
Acacia diphylla is known as the Wollomombi wattle as it grows around the gorge country, east of Armidale. This attractive wattle will reach a height of at least 10 metres. The phyllodes are large, leathery and almost rectangular in shape. The bright yellow flowers are held in spikes. They cover the trees in late spring after most of the other wattles have finished flowering.
The Wollomombi wattle could be cultivated as an avenue tree along the entrance to a rural property.
Acacia filicifolia, fern leaf wattle, is a large shrub or small tree with, as the common name indicates, ferny foliage. The yellow flowers are held in globular clusters composed of 20-35 individual flowers. This is one of the first wattles to flower in the spring season. The flowers are followed by a long pod containing a number of seeds. As the seeds ripen they are often eaten by crimson rosellas.
The fern leaf wattle is very common along the Bundarra Road, west of Armidale.
Acacia pycnostachya, the Bolivia Range wattle, is a tall, spreading tree with large, leathery phyllodes. The golden flowers are carried in long spikes in late spring. Two spikes are held at the base of each phyllode. Foliage and flowers are attractive features.
Acacia pycnostachya is a rare species found north of Deepwater.
These are a few tall wattles that could grace our domestic and rural landscapes.