Saturday, July 25, 2015


Acacia harpophylla

You have to be lucky, to catch brigalow in flower. The plants will often go for years without it. However this season seems to be a good one, so look out for the flowers.

This undervalued plant is one of Australia’s prettiest wattles, but not so much for its rare flowers as for its beautiful, sickle-shapes leaves, its black trunk and branches, and its graceful form.


In certain lights, the leaves are a lovely shade of silver. They are especially good in the sunshine after rain, while they are still wet.

In other lights, the trees have a dull grey, almost sinister beauty.

Brigalows sucker if damaged or cut down. This can be a nuisance to those who want to clear paddocks for agriculture, but is an advantage to those who want fresh, young, edible regrowth within reach of their cattle.
It also means that a row of brigalow can be turned into an effective windbreak with a bit of deliberate damage around the lower trunks to promote suckering.
For those who complain that wattles are short-lived, here's one that can live to a great old age.

Brigalow is the main inland host plant for the critically endangered butterfly, the pale imperial hairstreak Jalmenus eubulus. Unfortunately, it breeds only in old-growth forest or woodland and does not appear to colonise regrowth habitats following clearing or other major disturbance. This is a very good reason for conserving areas of old-growth brigalow.
Sadly, another threat to this and others of our more beautiful endangered butterflies are those so-called “nature lovers” who express their love by owning and displaying dead butterflies.  It is illegal to "collect" (as in "kill") butterflies in Australia without a permit, but this does not deter the unscrupulous.

Propagating brigalow is easy, provided you know the tricks, and its tricks are different from those of most wattles.
Seed of most Acacia species is very long-lived. It can be stored for at least 25 years and probably much longer. When the time comes for planting, you put a few seeds in a coffee cup, pour boiling water over them and leave them overnight. The seeds swell (repeat the treatment for the ones that don’t) and can be planted, germinating in a week or two.
Brigalow is different, though. It’s thin-skinned seeds are short-lived, so there’s no point in storing them as they’ll only die in storage. They need to be planted as fresh as possible, and without subjecting them to boiling water, which would kill them. Treated this way, they germinate within days.
Given that flowering and seed production are erratic, producing new little brigalow plants is a matter of taking advantage of opportunities when they occur, and this coming season looks like providing that.


Ozibird said...

Thanks for posting this interesting article on brigalow. I have the tiniest remnant patch on my property and want to increase the area so I was pleased to read more about them. Can you do a follow-up article on understorey plants for brigalow.

Patricia Gardner said...

Hi Ozibird.
I'll give it some thought.
Have you been to the Irongate reserve? It gives you a bit of an idea of what can grow with brigalow.
And are your brigalow making seed this year? I am trying to get hold of some.
Cheers, Trish

henri-pen said...

Hi there,
I would be interested in a brigalow or two also!

Anonymous said...

What's with the contradiction where you say do boil the seeds and then plant then you say don't boil as it will kill the seeds???

Patricia Gardner said...

I think you will find that with a more careful reading it is not contradictory.
I wished to describe the typical method of growing Acacia species,which is to soak them in boiling water.
Then I pointed out that Brigalow seeds have different requirements from most of the other 960 Australian species of Acacia.
Don't boil them.