Botanical Name: Acacia pycnantha
Species: A. pycnantha
*Acacia falcinella Meisn.
*Acacia petiolaris Lehm.
*Acacia pycnantha var. petiolaris H.Vilm.
*Acacia pycnantha Benth. var. pycnantha
Common Names: Golden wattle
Habitat:Acacia pycnantha occurs in south-eastern Australia from South Australia’s southern Eyre Peninsula and Flinders Ranges across 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.
The species has become naturalised beyond its original range in Australia. In New South Wales it is especially prevalent around Sydney and the Central Coast region. In Tasmania it has spread in the east of the state and become weedy in bushland near Hobart. In Western Australia, it is found in the Darling Range and western wheatbelt as well as Esperance and Kalgoorlie.
Outside Australia it has become naturalised in South Africa, Tanzania, Italy, Portugal, Sardinia, India, Indonesia and New Zealand.
Acacia pycnantha generally grows as a small tree to between 3 and 8 m (10 and 30 ft) in height, though trees of up to 12 m (40 ft) high have been reported in Morocco. The bark is generally dark brown to grey—smooth in younger plants though it can be furrowed and rough in older plants. Branchlets may be bare and smooth or covered with a white bloom. The mature trees do not have true leaves but have phyllodes—flat and widened leaf stems—that hang down from the branches. Shiny and dark green, these are between 9 and 15 cm (3 1?2 and 6 in) long, 1–3.5 cm (1?2–1 1?2 in) wide and falcate (sickle-shaped) to oblanceolate in shape. New growth has a bronze colouration. Field observations at Hale Conservation Park show the bulk of new growth to take place over spring and summer from October to January.
Floral buds are produced year-round on the tips of new growth, but only those initiated between November and May go on to flower several months later. Flowering usually takes place from July to November (late winter to early summer) in the golden wattle’s native range; because the later buds develop faster, flowering peaks over July and August. The bright yellow inflorescences occur in groups of 40 to 80 on 2.5–9 cm (1–3 1?2 in)-long racemes that arise from axillary buds. Each inflorescence is a ball-like structure that is covered by 40 to 100 small flowers that have five tiny petals (pentamerous) and long erect stamens, which give the flower head a fluffy appearance.
Developing after flowering has finished, the seed pods are flattish, straight or slightly curved, 5–14 cm (2–5 1?2 in) long and 5–8 mm wide. They are initially bright green, maturing to dark brown and have slight constrictions between the seeds, which are arranged in a line in the pod. The oblong seeds themselves are 5.5 to 6 mm long, black and shiny, with a clavate (club-shaped) aril. They are released in December and January, when the pods are fully ripe.
Golden wattle is cultivated in Australia and was introduced to the northern hemisphere in the mid-1800s. Although it has a relatively short lifespan of 15 to 30 years, it is widely grown for its bright yellow, fragrant flowers. As well as being an ornamental plant, it has been used as a windbreak or in controlling erosion. Trees are sometimes planted with the taller sugar gum (Eucalyptus cladocalyx) to make a two-layered windbreak. One form widely cultivated was originally collected on Mount Arapiles in western Victoria. It is floriferous, with fragrant flowers appearing from April to July. The species has a degree of frost tolerance and is adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions, but it prefers good drainage. It tolerates heavy soils in dry climates, as well as mild soil salinity. It can suffer yellowing (chlorosis) in limestone-based (alkaline) soils. Highly drought-tolerant, it needs 370–550 mm (10–20 in) winter rainfall for cultivation. It is vulnerable to gall attack in cultivation. Propagation is from seed which has been pre-soaked in hot water to soften the hard seed coating.
Flowers – cooked. Rich in pollen, they are often used in fritters. The plant yields an oily gum which is said to be edible. Some species produce a gum that is dark and is liable to be astringent and distasteful, but others produce a light gum and this is sweet and pleasant. It can be sucked like candy or soaked in water to make a jelly. The gum can be warmed when it becomes soft and chewable.
Preparations from at least 30 of the more than 1,200 acacia species in Australia were traditionally used by indigenous Australians for medicinal purposes (Wickens and Pennachio 2001). Different parts of the acacia plant; leaves, branchlets, bark, gum, roots, pods and seeds, were prepared in different ways to drink or apply externally to cure ailments. The following examples indicate the range of illnesses treated by indigenous peoples in the Northern Territory and Western Australia using different acacia preparations.
Flu, coughs and colds:
The symptoms of flus, coughs and colds were treated with acacia leaves, branchlets or bark freshly prepared as poultices, washes, tonics, or inhalations. For example, a large handful of crushed A. oncinocarpa leaves was made into a decoction drunk for chest infections or used as a wash for fever by people living on Bathurst and Melville Islands (Northern Territory).
To relieve cold and flu symptoms, new season’s leaves and twigs of A. lysiphloia (Turpentine Bush) were either used as an aromatic wash or made into a poultice by heating on embers or hot stones until they were soft and scorching. The poultice was then held firmly over painful areas such as the head or small of the back to relieve the aches from colds and flu.
To clear nasal congestion, a steam inhalation was prepared by boiling a handful of crushed fresh leaves from A. multisiliqua in about 800-900 ml of water. In Western Australia the inner bark of A. tetragonophylla (Dead Finish) was prepared as a decoction and an infusion to be taken for coughs.
An infusion from A. holosericea bark was swallowed for laryngitis and a decoction of A. kempeana (Witchetty Bush) leaves was used as a wash for severe colds. If it was inconvenient to prepare an infusion; while traveling for example, the leaves would simply be chewed to produce saliva that was swallowed (Aboriginal Communities of the Northern Territory1993).
Another acacia used to treat colds, sore throats and headache, was A. estrophiolata (Southern Ironwood). The bark from its smaller roots was crushed and infused with hot water until the liquid became dark red to black. This infusion was then poured over the affected part and rubbed in gently.
Acacias such as A. auriculiformis (Ear-pod Wattle), A. holosericea, A. lysiphloia, and A. pellita (Kankulang) were used to treat itching from a number of skin conditions such as allergies, various diseases and rashes; including those caused by hairy, stinging caterpillars (itchy grubs).
A handful of ripe pods with seed and their funicles attached were crushed and rubbed together with a small amount of water in the palms of the hands to form a soapy lather. The pods and lather were then rubbed vigorously onto the skin where it was itchy (Marrfurra et al. 1995).
A decoction using the inner bark from the smooth younger branches of Acacia estrophiolata was used once daily for sores, boils and scabies and as a splash for inflamed eyes (Aboriginal Communities of the Northern Territory1993).
A red or blackish gum exuded by A. estrophiolata after it was damaged, was softened by kneading under water and applied like an ointment directly to sores and wounds. Hard pieces of gum were sometimes ground to fine powder which was dusted onto skin lesions (Aboriginal Communities of the Northern Territory1993).
Long strips of the root bark of A. estrophiolata and A. tetragonaphylla were moistened with water and wrapped around sores, burns and larger wounds, and used to secure dressings. The stringy bark of A. cuthbertsonii (Silver Witchetty) was easily peeled off into long, tough ribbons and also used to secure dressings or, after moistening allowed to dry firmly in place as splints for fractures.
Warts were removed using the needle-like phyllodes of A. tetragonaphylla. They were used to pierce the base of the wart (perhaps as often as six times) or a number were inserted, and then broken off to leave the fine, sharp phyllode tips embedded in the wart. After four or five days the wart had shrivelled and was easily removed (Aboriginal Communities of the Northern Territory 1993).
Smoke therapy for good health:
Smoke therapy was considered good for health in general and helpful to a mother and her new-born child immediately after childbirth and to stop post-partum bleeding. The leaves and twigs of a number of acacias were used in smoke therapy and generally mixed together according to availability. Species included A. aneura (Mulga), A. kempeana (Witchetty Bush), A. ligulata (Umbrella Bush), and A. lysiphloia. The warm smoke was produced by a thick covering of leaves laid over fire or coals placed in a small pit. The mother or patient lay over the leaves and was covered with more branches until they sweated copiously. A new-born child was held briefly over the smoke to promote good health (Aboriginal Communities of the Northern Territory 1993).
A yellow dye is obtained from the flowers. A green dye is obtained from the seed pods. The extensive root system of this plant helps to prevent soil erosion. It is often planted for this purpose on sandy banks. The bark is rich in tannin. On a 10% moisture basis, the bark contains 40.8% tannin. Commercial use of its timber is limited by the small size of trees, but it has high value as a fuel wood. The scented flowers have been used for perfume making, and honey production in humid areas. However, the pollen is too dry to be collected by bees in dry climates. In southern Europe, it is one of several species grown for the cut-flower trade and sold as “mimosa”.
Symbolic and cultural references:
Although wattles, and in particular the golden wattle, have been the informal floral emblem of Australia for many years (for instance, it represented Australia on the Coronation gown of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953), it was not until Australia’s bicentenary in 1988 that the golden wattle was formally adopted as the floral emblem of Australia. This was proclaimed by Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen in the Government gazette published on 1 September. The day 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 “National Wattle Day”
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.