In honour of National Wattle Day yesterday (1st September), this post is largely about our National Floral Emblem – Acacia pycnantha or the Golden Wattle. Australia has over 900 species of Acacia (or wattle) with some yet to be described – there will be some species flowering almost through the whole year but the distinctive yellow of the wattle flower is most apparent in Spring. The bush in our area is ablaze with yellow right now – just in time for Wattle Day.
Wattle was incorporated into the design of the Australian Coat of Arms on the recommendation of the Rt Hon. Andrew Fisher, Prime Minister of Australia, when the Commonwealth Armorial Ensigns and Supporters were granted by Royal Warrant on 19 September 1912. Although wattle was largely accepted as Australia’s national flower for most of the 1900’s, it was not officially proclaimed as the national floral emblem until 1988, the year of Australia’s bicentenary. In 1992, the 1st September was formally declared “National Wattle Day” in recognition of the importance of this plant as an Aussie symbol.
The genus Acacia belongs to the family Mimosaceae and is found in Australia, Africa, Madagascar, the Asia-Pacific region and in the Americas. With almost 1000 species, Acacia (commonly known as Wattle) is the largest genus of vascular plants in Australia.
The wide distribution of different species across the variety of habitats in Australia has resulted in great diversity of form, flower and foliage type. Individual flowers are arranged in inflorescences that may be either globular heads or cylindrical spikes. Flowers mostly vary in colour through cream, pale yellow to gold and may perfumed. Foliage colour ranges from light or dark green to blue or silver-grey and ranges in shape/form from true leaves to highly modified phyllodes
Wattles make excellent garden plants. They range in habit from prostrate and low-growing species to larger shrubs and shade trees. Acacia are a good source of pollen making some species popular with bee-keepers and the seeds are also an important source of food for birds.
Various Acacia species have been or are used by people. The seeds from some species provide a valuable food source. Various extracts from the bark and the leaves have been used by Australian Aborigines for a wide variety of medicinal purposes. The wood of various species has been used to make clubs, spears, boomerangs and shields. Some species are used to make fine furniture while others were used as early building material hence the term “wattle and daub” huts. As a leguminous plant, wattles are also important for improving soil fertility by fixing atmospheric nitrogen in the soil.
Links of Interest:
- Australia’s Floral Emblem – Australian National Botanic Gardens
- World Wide Wattle – comprehensive resource on Acacia
- Wattle Day Association Homepage
- Australian Plants Society
What does all this have to do with gems or sapphires ? Not much really except to point out that Australian parti sapphire with its mix of yellow and blue-green colours is a great way to wear the “Green and Gold” wattle colours all year round.
The photo at left is a particularly lovely golden yellow sapphire set in a simple solitaire white gold setting. The photo on the right was a real challenge and we didnt really succeed in capturing the distinct yellow and blue zones of this parti (bicolor) sapphire which looks great set in yellow gold.
Hope you all had a enjoyable Wattle Day – it was a beautiful start to Spring in our neck of the woods so here’s hoping for a great season for everyone.
Cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire