Wattle Day in the Far North

Last Wednesday, 1st September, the nation celebrated Wattle Day.

‘Down south’ in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, it’s spring time, and wattles burst into flower in a blaze of green and gold. But in our part of the world, ‘up here’ in the Far North, plants tend to beat to a different rhythm.

In southern Australia the four seasons (spring, summer, autumn, winter) determine the cycle of plant growth and flowering, but in the tropics it’s the wet season and dry season that calls the shots.

‘Up here’, our local northern wattles tend to flower in the ‘green season’ ie February and March… that time of year when the whole countryside comes alive in response to the monsoonal rains. But when Wattle Day comes around in September, us northerners may be quite hard-pressed to find a sprig of wattle to wear in our lapels.

But so what?… we all know we’re different ‘up here’!

Still, a degree of patriotism beats in the hearts of us all, so let’s plant some wattles in our gardens and celebrate Wattle Day whatever time of year they choose to bloom. But don’t go with the traditional southern species like the Cootamundra Wattle, because while they are very beautiful they are totally unsuited to our tropical monsoonal climate.

Celebrate Wattle Day the northern way, with these two beautiful northern wattles, both favourites of ours:

Irvinebank Wattle (Acacia leptoloba): This is a beautiful large bushy shrub or small tree with very attractive purple new growth. The wattle flowers are white fluffy balls borne in profusion in summer, and they are so bright that they can stand out like beacons all over the plant. You can see this plant in the bush in the Irvinebank area and around the Walsh River catchment.

Silver-leafed wattle (Acacia holosericea): This is a spreading shrub with beautiful large silvery leaves and bright yellow wattle flowers. This wattle is a common plant in our bushland, and very easy to grow. Makes a great contrast to the green foliage of the rest of your garden.

Wattles have a reputation for being short-lived, and this can be true (although it is more of a problem ‘down south’ than ‘up here’). Wattles live their life in the fast lane, growing fast and dying fast. So get the most out of them by planting them in the full sun, in an open well-drained position. Chop them out when they’ve run out of steam, and replace with a new one which will grow so quickly that it will fill the space in a blink.

And don’t encourage their speedy life cycle by watering too much. Obviously, you will need to water your seedlings in when you plant them, and continue to water every so often until they are established, but after that leave them to fend for themselves. This way you will get the most out of their short but glorious life.

Happy Wattle Day!
See you at Yuruga,
Peter and Ann