Vachellia bidwillii

corkwood wattle


Vachellia bidwillii

(Benth.) Kodela 2006

pronounced: vatch-ELL-ee-uh bid-WILL-ee-eye

(Mimosaceae — the wattle family)

alternative name: Acacia bidwillii

Benth. 1854

pronounced: uh-KAY-shuh bid-WILL-ee-eye

common names: corkwood wattle, dogwood

native 4It seems very strange to me to find wattles that are not Acacias, just as it is to find gum trees that are not Eucalypts. This tree was a member of the Acacia genus until 2005, when the genus was split into 5 new genera, after a reclassification undertaken by the National Herbarium of New South Wales. This split has not been welcomed by all botanists – the international botanical community seems very hesitant to accept the validity of the evidence on which the split has been made, and there are currently attempts under way to reverse it.

Vachellia may have been named for Charles Tanfield Vachell (1848–1914) or his daughter Eleanor Vachell (1879–1948), British botanists; the only evidence I have to support this notion is that I can find no other botanists of that rather unusual name. Bidwillii is for John Carne Bidwill (1815–1853). Born in England, he collected in New Zealand and later in NSW. He became temporary Government Botanist and the first Director of the Sydney Botanic Gardens. Although the gardens had been established as early as 1816, they had until then been supervised by colonists who had never been granted that title.

Although this wattle bears the type of flowers familiar to all Australians as ‘wattle’, the leaves are different from those of most of the other wattles we have here, being pinnate rather than reduced to phyllodes. This was one of the criteria for splitting it off from the Acacia genus. The species is common in the Burnett and Port Curtis districts of Queensland, but ranges as far north as Mount Carbine in Cape York Peninsula, and there is a disjunct population around Mount Isa. It often occurs as a scattered understorey tree in grassy, open eucalypt woodland, as well as growing in open forest, Acacia woodland, in clay, loam, sandy or stony soils, on plains or on valley floors, slopes and ridges in undulating to hilly country, also in skeletal soils on rocky slopes. The photographs were taken at a row of the trees by the side of the Horseshoe Bay road, between Ryan’s Art Place and the start of the walkway to Arcadia.

Corkwood Wattle is a shrub or tree growing from 1.5 to 10 m in height; its branches are sometimes pendant, and the bark is corky and furrowed. The branchlets are more-or-less glabrous, but sometimes with scattered hairs. There are stipular spines to 2 mm long, often inconspicuous, to 12 mm long on young plants.

The leaves are bipinnate, mostly with a raised gland at the base of the lowest pair of pinnae; there are anything up to 25 pairs of pinnae, up to about 4 cm long; up to 30 pairs of pinnules, oblong to narrowly oblong or elliptic to narrowly elliptic, mostly 1 – 3.7 mm long and 0.5 – 1.1 mm wide, obtuse, discolorous, ciliate usually only at the base, with raised midnerve below.

The inflorescences are simple, one or two (occasionally 3) in axils, or sometimes on a raceme-like shoot that extends with growth; peduncles 1.5  –4 mm long; heads globular, 13 – 20-flowered, whitish to cream-coloured, sometimes pale yellow.

The pods are narrowly oblong to linear or narrowly elliptic, straight-sided or slightly constricted between some or all seeds, flat or slightly raised over seeds, 3–15 cm long, 8–16 mm or a little more wide.


Photographs taken in Horseshoe Bay 2008, 2013
Page last updated 26th April 2019