Wattles (Acacia spp) blooming herald the start of Spring and we celebrate Wattle Day on the 1 September.
Often people complain that wattles only live for 5 -10 years and don’t like to include them in plantings on farms. Wattles have an important ecological role in our local ecosystems. They are a key food plant for many species, with the wattle pollen being an important food source for many birds and insects at this time of year, when many other resources are scarce. the insect activity also attracts birds. The flowers don’t produce nectar but the leaves (or “phyllodes”) can secrete sticky, sugary secretions that are attractive to many insects, birds and possums. Who hasn’t brushed up against a wattle and ended up covered in ants!
The sap is an important food source for glider possums during the Winter, and sometimes there are very obvious chew marks on the bark.
As to the longevity of wattle….I like to think of it to be akin to a rock and roll star – live hard and die young….and leave lots of illegitimate offspring!
Many Acacias are able to produce seed early in their life, so although the parent plant dies, regeneration quickly follows. Many species are colonisers – come in after disturbances such as fire and regenerate prolifically, holding the soil together, fixing nitrogen (they are legumes) and paving the way for other species. When they do die, the tangle of dead branches is still a haven for small birds.
Some species of wattle are more long lived, like Hickory Wattle – Acacia implexa – common in many of our woodlands around Holbrook, and Blackwoods – Acacia melanoxylon that grow along many of our streams and creeks in the upper catchment.