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South Australia’s wattles herald the arrival of spring

In late winter through to spring our beautiful wattles put on a show to behold with their brilliant yellow blossoms sparkling in the winter sunshine. The genus Acacia is one of the most prolific and versatile of all our plant groups. There is well over 100 different species that occur naturally in South Australia. They can vary from ground covering plants, to shrubs and even large trees. Widespread throughout SA some species grow naturally in the driest areas of the state but others are dominant in the higher rainfall areas of the Adelaide Hills and the south east of the state.

Here is a selection of three South Australian wattles that come highly recommended. Acacia gracilifolia is commonly known as the graceful wattle due to its narrow glossy green phyllodes which are modified leaves, which is common to the Acacia species. Acacia gracilifolia has a limited natural occurrence in South Australia in the Southern Flinders Ranges and the Northern Mt Lofty Ranges. It is bushy, growing 1-2 metres x 1-2 metres wide. The brilliant yellow blossoms can occur from August into spring and put on a mass display. It is not very common in cultivation but has potential as an ornamental shrub for the garden or as a low hedge or screening plant. Tolerant of most soils and will take full sun to dappled light.

A rare South Australian species is Acacia menzelii commonly called Menzel’s wattle named after O. E. Menzel a botanical collector who first collected a flowering specimen at Monarto in 1897. It has a very limited natural occurrence being confined to the Monarto – Murray Bridge region. Not well known in cultivation it can grow 1-2 metres high with a similar spread. I have one growing on the south side of a fence at home where it doesn’t receive a great deal of sunshine but it has flourished in heavy soil and is quite compact. The foliage has a sticky resinous appearance to it and the flowers are profuse opening in August. This is a beaut small wattle for the plant enthusiast.

Acacia triquetra is known as the gold dust wattle and it is an apt common name as the flowers fairly glisten in the sun. It occurs naturally on Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas and on Kangaroo Island. Attaining up to 1.5 metres in height it is often found on loam and clay soils. The profuse flowers appear in September.

Highly recommended as an ornamental addition to a garden and again could be used as a low hedge. Just about all the Acacia species respond well to a light prune after flowering and you will be rewarded with dense growth and even more flowers the following year. Now is a good time to be planting Acacias and I think they should be used more in gardens and in landscaping projects as they brighten up those late winter dreary days and will flower on into spring.