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What is Golden Wattle?

By Angie Bates
Updated May 16, 2024
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Golden wattle is a type of plant native to Australia. Appearing as either a large shrub or a tree, the golden wattle gets its name from the distinctive golden blossoms that hang from its branches starting in the early spring. Called Australia's Floral Emblem, the golden wattle has been considered Australia national flower for more than a century, though it was not officially recognized as such until 1988. The scientific name for the golden wattle is Acacia pycnantha.

Generally between 13 and 26 feet (4–8 m) tall, golden wattles usually live about 20 years. As seedlings, these plants have leaves, but when they reach maturity, they lose their leaf blades and retain just the leaf stalks. The stalks are dark green, thin and pointy, and about 2.3–7.8 inches (6-20 cm) long.

The flowers are fluffy spheres, occurring in clusters on branches which may shoot out from the tree at angles or hang down like loosely bunched grapes. Each sphere, or flower head, has as many as 80 tiny, yellow, fragrant flowers. The fruit is dark brown and 2.7–4.7 inches (7–12 cm) long when mature.

Found natively in south Australia, specifically around New South Wales and Victoria, the golden wattle has been introduced to other parts of Australia as well, such as Perth. Additionally, this plant has been introduced to southern California in the United States and South Africa, where it can be found growing wild. In Africa, it is considered a pest species.

The sweet smelling flowers are often used in perfume making, as well as in high-end scented cosmetics. The wood is sometimes used in furniture making. Additionally, the golden wattle has appeared on Australian stamps, crests, and on the medal for the Order of Australia. Australia's colors of green and gold are said to be based on the wattle's coloring.

Coinciding with the early spring blooming of the tree, September 1st is considered Wattle Day in Australia. First held in 1910, Wattle Day was originally created to recognize the golden wattle as the national flower and celebrate the national history of Australia. A few years later, Australia became involved in World War I and plans to officially declare the tree as the national emblem were dismissed in lieu of the war. Wattle Day was still celebrated, however, and instead was used as a way of raising funds for the war effort. Now, Wattle day has become a symbol of national pride in Australia, generally celebrating Australia's culture and history.

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Discussion Comments
By anon330630 — On Apr 17, 2013

@JessiC: I live in North Carolina and have positively identified several golden wattle trees growing on my property. We have a large piece of land with lots of densely wooded land, and they are growing wild among other trees like pines.

This is the first year I've seen them (spring 2013) but I went about researching them when my curiosity was piqued by the bright yellow flower "balls." I have no idea where they came from but it's unlikely that they were put here intentionally since they are growing randomly among other trees and brush. I'm in northeastern North Carolina. If you like them, go ahead and try to grow them. They are proliferating all over the place on our property!

By JessiC — On Nov 19, 2011

I am so impressed with myself at this moment! I actually know what a golden wattle is! However, the reason that I know what it is has nothing to do with the traditional means of knowing about a plant or tree.

You see, I have a game that I like to play on the Internet that allows the user to build their own time travel garden. You can ‘purchase’ items ranging from The Great Wall of China to different rare plants to go in your garden.

I have gotten to a level now where I can actually buy golden wattles! I love them, and have them all over my garden. I particularly like them next to purple toned plants, since yellow and purple are complimentary colors.

I had no idea that they were native to Australia in the real world until I read this article! Wow – I bet I couldn’t get one to grow in my backyard in North Carolina for a million dollars! But if the real thing is anywhere near as interesting to look at as the virtual one, I might should give it a try.

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