Golden Wattle (Acacia sp.), Western Australia (credit: SWP Media)
September 1st is National Wattle Day in Australia. Events and festivals occur across the southern continent to celebrate its history. A new Australian 5-dollar banknote has been issued and the organizing Wattle Day Association even has a Facebook page recognizing these fine woody plants.
Acacia Decorations for Wattle Day 1st Responders and Festival Attendee (credit: Wattle Day Association)
Wattles (Acacia) are pan-tropical flowering shrubs and trees from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Australia where they are represented by nearly 1000 known species alone. They are members of the pea plant family where they constitute the largest genus in numbers of species. Acacias were first scientifically described in 1829 from African collections but were known and had been used by indigenous peoples for millenia.
Acacias are highly varied in growth form, from mat-like subshrubs to giant forest canopy trees. They are utilized for their gummy resin, as timber for various implements, weapons, fuel, and musical instruments. Several species are globally important as wood products, tannins, firewood, and as animal fodder. Some Acacias are horticulturally significant and planted in gardens with Mediterranean climates providing beautiful colors and fragrance in the spring.
Recent studies at the University of Washington found that most people suffer from "plant blindness" and just take plants for granted. Besides being existentially important for a sustaining environments for all other life, it is nice to see plants recognized as important to a nation and culture the way Australians pay attention to their Acacias.
Wattles are the Plant of the Month.