A vexed question

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!

Cootamundra Wattle, South German Track, Muckleford State Forest, 25th July 2012.

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.

Cootamundra begins flowering in mid-winter in this part of the world.

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.

Common Bronzewings are particularly fond of Cootamundra Wattle seed – one of three pairs currently frequenting our place.

Trivia question: Cootamundra is famous for at least two things, one is Acacia baileyana … any ideas on its other claim to fame?

11 responses to “A vexed question

  1. Patti and Ian

    We think Don Bradman’s birthplace. Love your comments and brilliant photos.

  2. Nikki Marshall

    Hi Geoff,
    Lots of Cootamundra wattle beginning to flower around Yandoit at the moment, not surprising given the amount of areas disturbed by mining.
    In response to your trivia question perhaps one of the other things Cootamundra is famous, or perhaps infamous, for is the Aboriginal Girls Home, operating from 1912 to 1969. Many young Aboriginal girls from all over Australia grew up there, as part of the stolen generations. I visited out of interest last year on my way to Queensland and had to do some serious asking locally to find the old site. I have a photo of the girls’ wishing well which is poignantly inscribed with the words: ‘wishing for family to come and take us home’.
    Nikki Marshall

  3. Drove through there recently. Those generous rolling hills heading for Orange. Don Bradman was born there.

  4. Dad did his Air Force Training there in 1945- he had very fond memories of his time there, and was happy that the war ended before he was sent overseas.

  5. Debbie Worland

    Hi Geoff, just an observation, Swift Parrots do feed in Cootamundra Wattles, I have seen them feeding in the wattles when there is not much else flowering.

  6. Celia M. Browne

    While very beautiful this time of year, they are a pest; we cut one down about 5 years ago on our block at Clydesdale. Celia

  7. Thanks to all for your accurate, illuminating and amusing responses to my note on Cootamundra Wattle.
    All the best, geoff

  8. Hi Geoff, if you get a big fire you might find that cootamundra wattle has spread through the bush more than is obvious now. Seeds in the soil are likely to be more widespread than the established plants, and you may get a big recruitment pulse after a burn. It may be better to think of it as a ‘sleeper weed’ waiting its chance to erupt, rather than a slow invader. Thanks again for a great blog, Ian

    • Hi Ian, you may well be correct on this. It will be interesting/disturbing to see what impact the current obsession with prescribed burning has on Cootamundra and other ‘sleeper’ weeds.
      All the best, geoff

  9. I’m very interested to hear Debbie say Swift Parrots feed in Cootamundra Wattles. It is a pity you didn’t mention this in your wonderful DVD on Swifties, Deb!

    I didn’t take part in my Landcare group’s last activity because they were cutting down Cootamundra Wattle. I figure Cootamundra Wattle probably adds to the biodiversity values of areas where it exists and that cutting them down is an indirect way of killing those indigenous birds etc.. that use them.

    Deb’s Swifty story reminds me another article I read, on the Orange Bellied Parrot, several years ago. Apparently OBPs love to feed on wireweed. After reading that article I’ve been careful not to kill any wireweed on my property and as a result I have healthy flocks of very happy red browed finches and other lbb’s that I cannot identify.

    Tim Low wrote about this type of stuff in his book “New Nature” 20 years ago but it seems like hardly any conservationists have bothered to think the issues through.

    Thanks Geoff for (finally) raising this issue on this blog, Geoff. I’ll get off my soap box now 🙂

  10. Pingback: A vexed question | Castlemaine Independent news

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