some 980 species
Range of the genus Acacia
Acacia subg. Phyllodineae DC.
Acacia facsiculifera shoot, showing phyllodes on the pinnate leaves,
formed by dilation of the petiole and proximal part of the rachis
Acacia, commonly known as the wattles or acacias, is a large genus of
shrubs and trees in the subfamily
Mimosoideae of the pea family
Fabaceae. Initially it comprised a group of plant species native to
Africa and Australia, with the first species A. nilotica described by
Linnaeus. Controversy erupted in the early 2000s when it became
evident that the genus as it stood was not monophyletic, and that
several divergent lineages needed to be placed in separate genera. It
turned out that one lineage comprising over 900 species mainly native
Australia was not closely related to the mainly African lineage
that contained A. nilotica —the first and type species. This meant
that the Australian lineage (by far the most prolific in number of
species) would need to be renamed. Botanist Les Pedley named this
group Racosperma, which was inconsistently adopted. Australian
botanists proposed that this would be more disruptive than setting a
different type species (A. penninervis) and allowing this large number
of species to remain Acacia, resulting in the two African lineages
Vachellia and Senegalia, and the two New World lineages
Acaciella and Mariosousa. This was officially adopted, but
many botanists from Africa and elsewhere disagreed that this was
A number of species have been introduced to various parts of the
world, and two million hectares of commercial plantations have been
established. The heterogeneous group varies considerably in
habit, from mat-like subshrubs to canopy trees in forest.
4 Distribution and habitat
10 External links
The genus was first described from Africa by C. F. P. von Martius in
1829. Several hundred combinations in
Acacia were published by Pedley
in 2003. The genus of 981 species,
Acacia s.l., in the subfamily
Mimosoideae of the pea family
Fabaceae is monophyletic. All but 10 of
its species are native to Australia, where it constitutes the
largest plant genus.
Following a controversial decision to choose a new type for
2005, the Australian component of
Acacia s.l. now retains the name
Acacia. At the 2011
International Botanical Congress
International Botanical Congress held in
Melbourne, the decision to use the name Acacia, rather than the
proposed Racosperma for this genus, was upheld. Other Acacia
s.l. taxa continue to be called
Acacia by those who choose to consider
the entire group as one genus.
Australian species of the genus
Paraserianthes s.l. are deemed its
closest relatives, particularly with P. lophantha. The nearest
Paraserianthes s.l. in turn include the
Australian and South East Asian genera Archidendron, Archidendropsis,
Pararchidendron and Wallaceodendron, all of the tribe Ingeae.
The origin of "wattle" may be an Old Teutonic word meaning "to
weave". From around 700 A.D. watul was used in
Old English to
refer to the interwoven branches and sticks which formed fences, walls
and roofs. Since about 1810 it refers to the Australian legumes that
provide these branches.
Australia probably evolved their fire resistance about 20
million years ago when fossilised charcoal deposits show a large
increase, indicating that fire was a factor even then.[citation
needed] With no major mountain ranges or rivers to prevent their
spread, the wattles began to spread all over the continent as it dried
and fires became more common. They began to form dry,
open forests with species of the genera Allocasuarina,
The southernmost species in the genus are
Acacia dealbata (silver
Acacia longifolia (coast wattle or Sydney golden wattle),
Acacia mearnsii (black wattle), and
Acacia melanoxylon (blackwood),
reaching 43°30' S in Tasmania, Australia.
An Acacia-like 14 cm long fossil seed pod has been described from
Eocene of the Paris Basin.
Acacia like fossil pods under the
name Leguminocarpon are known from late
Oligocene deposits at
different sites in Hungary.
Seed pod fossils of †Acacia
parschlugiana and †
Acacia cyclosperma are known from Tertiary
deposits in Switzerland,. †
Acacia colchica has been described
Miocene of West Georgia.
Pliocene fossil pollen of an Acacia
sp. has been described from West Georgia and Abkhazia. Oldest
records of fossil
Acacia pollen in
Australia are from the late
Oligocene epoch, 25 million years ago.
Distribution and habitat
They are present in all terrestrial habitats, including alpine
settings, rainforests, woodlands, grasslands, coastal dunes and
deserts. In drier woodlands or forest they are an important
component of the understory. Elsewhere they may be dominant, as in the
Brigalow Belt, Myall woodlands and the eremaean Mulga woodlands.
Acacia forest is the second most common forest type
after Eucalypt forest, covering 980,000 square kilometres
(378,380 sq mi) or 8% of total forest area.
Acacia is also
the nation’s largest genus of flowering plants with almost 1,000
Several of its species bear vertically oriented phyllodes, which are
green, broadened leaf petioles that function like leaf blades, an
adaptation to hot climates and droughts. Some phyllodinous species
have a colourful aril on the seed. A few species have cladodes
rather than leaves.
Aboriginal Australians have traditionally harvested the seeds of some
species, to be ground into flour and eaten as a paste or baked into a
cake. The seeds contain as much as 25% more protein than common
cereals, and they store well for long periods due to the hard seed
coats. In addition to utilizing the edible seed and gum, the
people employed the timber for implements, weapons, fuel and musical
instruments. In ancient Egypt, an ointment made from the ground
leaves of the plant was used to treat hemorrhoids. A number of
species, most notably A. mangium (hickory wattle), A. mearnsii (black
wattle) and A. saligna (coojong), are economically important and are
widely planted globally for wood products, tannin, firewood and
fodder. A. melanoxylon (blackwood) and A. aneura (mulga) supply
some of the most attractive timbers in the genus. Black wattle bark
supported the tanning industries of several countries, and may supply
tannins for production of waterproof adhesives.
Acacia is repeatedly mentioned in the Book of Exodus, perhaps
Acacia raddiana, in regards to the construction of the
Acacia is a common food source and host plant for butterflies of the
genus Jalmenus. The imperial hairstreak,
Jalmenus evagoras, feeds on
at least 25 acacia species.
Some species of acacia - notably A. baileyana, A. dealbata and A.
pravissima - are cultivated as ornamental garden plants. The 1889
publication 'Useful native plants of Australia' describes various uses
See also: List of
One species is native to Madagascar, one to Reunion island, 12 to
Asia, and the remaining species (over 900) are native to Australasia
and the Pacific Islands. These species were all given combinations
by Pedley when he erected the genus Racosperma, hence Acacia
pulchella, for example, became Racosperma pulchellum. However these
were not upheld with the retypification of Acacia.
Acacia tree symbolizes immortality in the Judeo-Christain thought. It
is believed that acacia spines formed the crown of thorns of Jesus
Christ. 'Shittah', an acacia species was used to build the Tabernacle.
The red and white flowers of the tree also symbolize the duality of
life and death. An acacia bough is used by the Freemasonry both as an
initiation symbol as well as a funerary tribute, it is in reference to
the branch laid on the mythical grave of the biblical Solomon's master
builder, Hiram, who was killed by his fellow workers after he refused
to reveal the mysteries of his craft. 
Pedley, L. (2002). "A conspectus of
Australia". Austrobaileya 6(2): 177–186.
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^ Midgley and Turnbull
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should be acceptable to everybody" (PDF). Taxon. 59 (6): 1925–1926.
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^ a b Austin, Daniel F. (2004). Florida ethnobotany Fairchild Tropical
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Australia, Reprinted issue 1988, ISBN 0730101541
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^ Ellesmore, Windsor (2002). "Surgical History of Haemorrhoids". In
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Data related to
Acacia at Wikispecies