Cootamundra Wattle

One of these things is not like the other #2

I admire people who can walk through the bush and identify the flora without referring to a field guide. To do this I think you need a good knowledge of what flora should be in the area (that will whittle down the hundreds of choices down to the tens), and then a system for classifying them.

Cootamundra Wattle - easy peasy

Cootamundra Wattle – easy peasy

For nearly a decade I have been trying to learn all the plants on our property (with little success). I’ve started with the acacias. Acacias are divided into six groups based on the shape and form of the leaves and flowers. Using the colour of the flowers is not very helpful! Group 1 acacias contain wattles with bipinnate foliage (as opposed to single leafed). I call them feathery-leaved wattles. Where I live there are only three species with this type of leaf – the Cootamundra Wattle (Acacia baileyiana) (an environmental weed in this area, planted by the previous owner), the Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata) and the Black Wattle (Acacia mearnsii).

Silver Wattle - a bit trickier

Silver Wattle – a bit trickier

The Cootamundra is easy to pick – SMALL bipinnate leaves and that unique light blue-green colour. The Silver and the Black Wattles are a bit trickier to tell apart. The Silver Wattle flowers a bit earlier but how do you pick them when they are both in flower or both not? I’m glad you asked. You will have to look closely at the rhachis – the stem down the centre of the leaf. Distributed along the rhachis are tiny oil glands. In the Silver Wattle the oil glands are situated AT the point where each pair of pinnates is attached to the stem (pictured above). In the Black Wattle, those oil glands are BETWEEN the spot where the individual fronds meet the stem (pictured below, click photo to enlarge). Tricky, eh?

Black Wattle

Black Wattle

Well, that covers the bipinnate wattles. That only leaves 11 more acacia species and several dozen more trees to come to grips with.

Grand Final special – the Purple Haze descends

Some of you may not be aware that last weekend, the Fremantle Dockers AFL team qualified for their first Grand Final, to be played on Saturday. The main colour of the jersey is purple and to their fans the team is affectionately known as the ‘Purple Haze’. Looking up at the spur above our house at the moment you could be forgiven for thinking I have forsaken the West Coast Eagles and jumped onto the Freo band-wagon. (Those of you who have visited Western Australia will realise that this is slightly more ridiculous than a Carlton fan supporting Collingwood). It appears a purple haze has descended on the hill above our house.

A. baileyana purpurea new foliage

A. baileyana purpurea new foliage

The colour is due to a stand of trees which are a particular cultivar of the Cootamundra Wattle known as Acacia baileyana purpurea. In Spring A. baileyana produces new growth that is light green in colour (see photo below) whereas this cultivar produces new foliage that is purple in colour, REALLY purple (see photo left). With all the branches tipped with purple foliage it looks like there is a  purple mist on the hill.

A. baileyana new foliage

A. baileyana new foliage

Like the normal Cootamundra Wattle, A. baileyana purpurea is classed as an environmental weed in the Murrindindi Shire and should be removed.

Maybe I’ll wait until after the Grand Final. I’ll be busy this weekend watching the footy. Go Freo.