In most areas of Australia, wattles are a conspicuous component of the landscape, particularly in springtime when the whole countryside may be aglow with their hues of yellow blossom. Acacia represents the largest genus of flowering plants in Australia, with over 960 species. Like the eucalypts most people can recognise a 'gum tree' and most can recognise a wattle, at least when it is in flower. Again, like the many species of eucalypts, there are also many different species of wattles or Acacia. However, most people find it difficult to recognise the various species, even in their own area.
The name 'acacia' was used for a thorny Egyptian tree, subsequently formally named as the genus Acacia. Species of this genus in Australia are commonly referred to as wattles. The use of this name in Australia appears to have originated with the first British settlers who constructed 'wattle and daub' buildings using, not acacia branches, but rather those of Callicoma serratifolia, then called black wattle, which grew in the Sydney area. The term then appears to have been applied to Acacia species generally. The Aborigines called many wattles by a variety of names, many of which have remained as common names, though not all are unique to a particular species.
WattleWeb will help those who appreciate the Australian 'bush', as well as naturalists and fieldworkers, to come to known and recognise the large number of Acacia species which may occur in their own area and in New South Wales generally. Gardeners may also be encouraged to grow more interesting, and very often more suitable, species of wattle.
Written and compiled by Terry Tame,
Phillip Kodela, Barry Conn, Ken Hill
© Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney - June 2001
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