Every time I see the plant pictured below in our local bushland my brain starts to hurt. It’s the Cootamundra Wattle Acacia baileyana, indigenous to a small area near Cootamundra in New South Wales. A popular and widely cultivated garden plant it now ranges across much of temperate southern Australia, and has become naturalised in areas of bushland. It is in fact a weed … a plant out-of-place!
Regardless of your personal view on weeds its hard to argue that Cootamundra Wattle is not a beautiful plant, the prolific sprays of flowers brightening up many a winter vista. While it does have the ability to invade native bushland and in some restricted cases hybridise with local native wattles, in my experience this is more likely to occur in disturbed sites. Around Newstead it is found in a few spots but has hardly gotten “out-of-control”, despite being established for many years.
The problem with a weed like Cootamundra is that it is totally infeasible to eradicate – the costs of removing all of them from the bush would be horrendous, and it would not be socially acceptable to restrict their cultivation, or in fact remove those already planted. In home gardens they have a range of values including being an important food source for native granivorous birds. Our healthy local Common Bronzewing population is in part due to the generous seed fall from garden Cootamundras. I would be interested in hearing other perspectives on this matter.
Trivia question: Cootamundra is famous for at least two things, one is Acacia baileyana … any ideas on its other claim to fame?