Thursday, August 13, 2009

Oleander-leafed Wattle

Acacia neriifolia
A rather imaginative person once thought that the narrow phyllodes of this plant resembled oleander leaves.

Be that as it may, this fast-growing, 8m tall plant is one of our district's best wattles,  having a spectacular display of golden flowers in August. Each year, they make a magnificent show on the road between Toowoomba and Crows Nest.

In the bush we see it as a smallish tree, with most of its flowers high out of reach. If used in a garden it responds well to pruning, so can be kept as a shrub. Pruning increases its bushiness, making it a good screen and Oleander-substitute.

Most people don't prune their wattles, though, and species like this one which grow fast and are naturally rather large, but are not long lived (about 15 years), are not popular in gardens. For this reason, we need to encourage its use in suitable spaces - beside highways, in drainage easements, in nature reserves and parks, and on privately owned "acreage estate" residential blocks. If its population is allowed to dwindle, as is happening with so many of our local plants as our suburbs spread ever outwards, our district's character will lose something very important!

Unlike the poisonous, non-Australian oleanders, this is a plant which fits the environment. It hosts a rich population of native insects including some lovely little butterflies, and attracts birds which appreciate the insect supply.

This is a wattle for well-drained soil, such as the snuffy red-soils along the top of the range, and the nearby sandstone soils.

It is frost-hardy, and thrives  through the worst of our droughts with no supplementary watering.

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