One of Australia’s most beautiful acacia species has become a pest outside its natural heartland on the NSW Western Slopes.

Story Ken Eastwood  Photo PG Kodela

In winter, Jindalee National Park on the NSW Western Slopes will glow once again with gold. Beside the park’s twisting mountain bike tracks is a thick grove of Cootamundra wattles growing in sheltered belts among the ironbarks and other lesser wattles. Big showy shrubs up to 10m tall, they have delicate, fern-like blue-grey foliage all year round and burst into profuse yellow blooms from June to September.

One of 1080 known wattles, the Cootamundra wattle (Acacia baileyana) is found naturally in just a 50km stretch between Cootamundra, Stockinbingal, Temora and Bethungra, but its impact stretches much wider. Because it makes such a beautiful tree it was planted in parks and gardens widely around the country from the late 19th century, and overseas by Australian soldiers, with its image honoured on a postage stamp and by painter Fred Williams in the 1970s. In 1986, John Williamson sang fondly:

Hey it’s July and the winter sun is shining
And the Cootamundra wattle is my friend
For all at once my childhood never left me
‘Cause wattle blossoms bring it back again.

This story excerpt is from Issue #154

Outback Magazine: April/May 2024