Acacia pycnantha (Golden Wattle) is the official Floral Emblem of Australia. It is a tree which flowers in late winter and spring, producing a mass of fragrant, fluffy, golden flowers.
Acacia pycnantha 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.
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. 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.
- Acacia falcinella Meisn.
- Acacia petiolaris Lehm.
- Acacia pycnantha var. petiolaris H.Vilm.
- Acacia pycnantha Benth. var. pycnantha
- Acacia westonii Maiden
- Racosperma pycnanthum (Benth.) Pedley
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. It is naturalised in areas within all the southern states of Australia as well as South Africa and California.
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.
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.
Symbolic and 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 "National Wattle Day".
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.
At the arrival in the Netherlands of the first 36 coffins of unidentified victims of the Maleysian pasenger-plane, shot down over the Eastern Oekraïne in July 2015 the wife of the Australian Governor-General was wearing a branch of wattle on her black dress.
The species was depicted on a two shilling (2/-) 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. The Golden Wattle inspired the design and decoration of the Order of Australia which was established in 1975. 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 bushmen" (who are also university philosophy professors, all named "Bruce") welcoming a new professor from England. Eric Idle (as Bruce) suddenly stands up with a branch in his hand and proclaims "This here's the Wattle, the emblem of our land. You can stick it in a bottle, you can hold it in your hand! Amen."
- Acacia saligna (also known as "golden wattle")
- Acacia longifolia (also known as "Sydney golden wattle")
- List of flora on stamps of Australia
- National colours of Australia
- List of Acacia species known to contain psychoactive alkaloids
- Costermans, L. (1981). Native Trees and Shrubs of South-eastern Australia. Australia: Rigby. ISBN 072701403x.
- "Acacia pycnantha". PlantNET - New South Wales Flora Online. Archived from the original on 30 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-28.
- "Acacia pycnantha Benth.". Australian Plant Name Index (APNI), IBIS database. Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian Government.
- Boden, Anne (1985). "Golden Wattle: Floral Emblem of Australia" (http). Australian National Botanic Gardens. Archived from the original on 28 August 2007. Retrieved 28 August 2007.
- Tom Lawrie & AAP staff (30 February 2012). "Australia's wattles threatened by pests". Australian Geographic. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
- Chemotaxonomie der Pflanzen By Robert Hegnauer(1994) ISBN 3-7643-2979-3
- Nen. Talk at Intra Cortex 2002 Doon Doon, NSW
Media related to Acacia pycnantha at Wikimedia Commons