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Natural Perspective

The Plant Kingdom: Acacias (Acacia)

(Last modified: 4 May 2015)
[photo green wattle in bloom]

[photo green wattle] These members of the Pea family are both attractive and easy to recognize. The bi-pinnately feathered leaves of the Green Wattle (Acacia decurrens, above & left) and showy winter blooms really make them stand out of the crowd. The young saplings grow beautiful red branches from a smooth textured green trunk. As they mature, these brightly colored features fade to a more drab grey-brown.

[photo blackwood1]

[photo blackwood2] The Blackwood Acacia (Acacia melanoxylon, above and right) though, gets the prize for most unusual. It's "leaves" seem to be plain and oblong like that of a Bay tree, but the saplings grow the feathered leaves piggyback on these flat ones (see above). Botanists explain this away by calling the oblong leaves petioles (the "stem" between leaf and branch) but if they're petioles, then the mature tree ends up all petiole and no leaf!

Note also, that unlike most broadleaved trees, these leaves do not have a single central vein -- another tell-tale characteristic.

In the winter, shortly after the Green Wattles start blooming, these too start showing off their flowers. From a distance, the flowers seem to be growing in stiff spikes pointing straight out in all directions.

Although native to Australia, they have become naturalized to California habitats along with other Australians such as the Eucalyptus tree.

Phylum: Angiospermophyta (flowering plants)
Class: Dicotyledoneae (starting with two seed-leaves)
Subclass: Rosidae
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae (Pea family)
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This site produced and maintained by Ari Kornfeld
Copyright © 1996-2015 All rights reserved.

Collaboration and inspiration thanks to Susan Kornfeld
Early PhotoCD scans by Alpha CD Imaging, Menlo Park, CA
Special thanks to Claire Doyle Ragin for scanning some early photos
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