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Golden Wattle

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Golden Wattle

Template:Use Australian English

Golden Wattle
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Acacia
Species: A. pycnantha
Binomial name
Acacia pycnantha
Benth.

Acacia pycnantha (Golden Wattle) is Australia's floral emblem. It is a tree which flowers in late winter and spring, producing a mass of fragrant, fluffy, golden flowers.

Description

The species grows to between 2 and 8 metres in height with generally smooth, dark brown to grey bark. The mature trees do not have true leaves but have long, sickle-shaped phyllodes. These are shiny and dark green and are between 8 and 20 cm long and 0.5 to 3.5 cm wide. The rounded inflorescences are bright yellow and occur in axillary racemes or terminal panicles in groupings of between 4 and 23. These are followed by flattish, straight or slightly curved pods which are 5 to 14 cm long and 0.5 to 0.8 cm wide.[1][2]

Taxonomy

Acacia pycnantha was first formally described by botanist George Bentham in the London Journal of Botany in 1842. The type specimen was collected by the explorer Thomas Mitchell from the interior of New South Wales.[3] The specific epithet pycnantha is derived from the Greek words pyknos (dense) and anthos (flowers), a reference to the dense cluster of flowers that make up the globular inflorescences.[4]

Synonyms include:

  • Acacia falcinella Meisn.
  • Acacia petiolaris Lehm.
  • Acacia pycnantha var. petiolaris H.Vilm.
  • Acacia pycnantha Benth. var. pycnantha
  • Acacia westonii Maiden
  • Racosperma pycnanthum (Benth.) Pedley[3]

Distribution

Golden Wattle occurs in south-eastern Australia from South Australia’s southern Eyre Peninsula into western Victoria and northwards into inland areas of southern New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. It is found in the understorey of open eucalypt forests on dry, shallow soils.[1] It is naturalised in areas within all the southern states of Australia as well as South Africa and California.[2][4]

Cultivars outside Australia have been attacked by dormant pests, leading the Australian Invasive Species Council to demand action to be taken in case the pests reach Australia.[5]

Uses

Golden Wattle has been grown in temperate regions around the world for the tannin in its bark, which provides the highest yield of all the wattles. The scented flowers have been utilised for perfume making.[4]

Cultivation

Golden Wattle is cultivated in Australia and was introduced to the northern hemisphere in the mid-1800s. Although it is short lived, it is widely grown for its bright yellow, fragrant flowers. The species has a degree of frost tolerance and is adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions, however it prefers good drainage. Propagation is from seed which has been pre-soaked in hot water to soften the hard seed coating.[4]

Symbolic & Cultural references

Although wattles, and in particular the Golden Wattle, have been the informal floral emblem of Australia for many years, it was not until Australia’s bicentenary in 1988 that the Golden Wattle was formally adopted as the Floral Emblem of Australia. The date of gazettal was 1 September which was marked by a ceremony at the Australian National Botanic Gardens which included the planting of a Golden Wattle by Hazel Hawke, the Prime Minister’s wife. In 1992, 1 September was formally declared as "National Wattle Day".[4]

The Australian Coat of Arms includes a wreath of wattle, however this does not accurately represent a Golden Wattle. Similarly, the green and gold colours used by Australian international sporting teams were inspired by the colours of wattles in general, rather than the Golden Wattle specifically.[4]

The species was depicted on a 2 shilling stamp captioned "wattle" as part of a 1959-60 Australian stamp set featuring Australian native flowers. In 1970 a 5c stamp labelled "Golden Wattle" was issued to complement an earlier set depicting the floral emblems of Australia. To mark Australia Day in 1990 a 41c stamp labelled "Acacia pycnantha" was issued.[4] The Golden Wattle inspired the design and decoration of the Order of Australia which was established in 1975.[4] The crest of the Governor-General of Australia features St. Edward's Crown over a sprig of Golden Wattle.

The Wattle is referred to in a sketch on Monty Pythons Flying Circus. The sketch features the cast as generic 'aussie bushman' (who are also apparently university tutors) welcoming an English professor. Eric Idle suddenly stands up with a branch in his hand and proclaims 'This is the Wattle, the emblem of our land. You can stick it in a bottle or hold it in your hand! Amen'.

Phytochemistry

  • 0.02% alkaloids(leaf),0.18% tryptamines (bark)[6]

See also

Australia portal
Plants portal

References

External links

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