Maiden’s wattle

Maiden’s wattle

Maiden’s wattle (Acacia maidenii) is a fast growing, small tree (either slender or bushy) with fissured bark. As with many wattles, the leaves are replaced by expanded

Acacia maidenii, Maiden's Wattle
Acacia maidenii. Photograph by Neil Murphy.

leaf stalks that are dark green and function as leaf blades. In Maiden’s wattle these phyllodes are long and narrow, slightly sickle-shaped and alternate along the stem. Six centimetre long, pale yellow flower spikes, growing in pairs from leaf axils, appear between late summer and winter. These are followed by tubular seed pods that become highly coiled. The brown seeds are each encircled by an orange strap (aril) which attaches it to the pod.

This wattle naturally occurs in coastal and subcoastal regions from Proserpine in Queensland to Orbost in Victoria, where it usually grows in more fertile soils on the edges of rainforests. However, it will grow in a variety of well-drained soils. This ability to tolerate a range of soil fertility is most likely linked to the nitrogen-fixing bacteria that live symbiotically in nodules in roots of all wattles. Although mulching and some watering, particularly in dry periods, is needed for the first year or two, Maiden’s wattle is drought-tolerant once established and can grow in a range of climates in full or partial sun. It will not survive, however, in soils that are prone to water-logging. As an added bonus, it is fire resistant and thus is significant in the regeneration of fire-damaged habitats.

Being a small tree, Maiden’s wattle is a good specimen plant for suburban gardens. It is an attractive ornamental or shade tree and is very good in reforestation projects due to its soil nutrient-producing benefits for successive species. It is a wildlife habitat plant. The caterpillar of the common grass yellow butterfly eats the leaves. It attracts both birds which eat the seeds and insects and butterflies which feed on the nectar of the perfumed flowers. Many of these insects are important pollinators of surrounding plants.

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