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Acacia ammophila – a hidden gem of Queensland’s outback

Acacia ammophila wattle tree

Australia’s wattle diversity

Australia is famous for its wattles, Acacia species, with over 900 species described to date. They range from tall trees to small shrubs and there’s at least one species anywhere you care to look. Several tree species are well-known in Queensland, sometimes giving their name to whole regions where they are distinctive and abundant – think of ‘Brigalow’, ‘Mulga’ and ‘Gidgee’.

The unnamed outback resident

A much less familiar species is Acacia ammophila. This tree doesn’t have a common name, at least not one that has been recorded. Undoubtedly it was known and named by Aboriginal people but, unlike those of some of the other tree wattles, like those mentioned above, the name does not appear to have been widely adopted by European settlers.

Geographic distribution in southern Queensland

Acacia ammophila is a true Outback resident. It’s found in a narrow band of inland southern Queensland centred on the Bulloo River catchment, with known occurrences from the north-west of Currawinya National Park northward to Hell Hole Gorge National Park. It is most common on the sandy red earths of old dune fields to the east of the Bindegolly lakes, between Eulo and Thargomindah. Motorists can readily see it as they drive through this area, or stop to visit Lake Bindegolly National Park.

Botanical features

Acacia ammophila is a small tree, to about 6 metres height, with a spreading, rather straggly canopy. The bark is dark grey and deeply furrowed and rough-looking. The “leaves” are long and narrow, 10 to 20 cm long by 2.5 to 6 mm wide, usually with a stiffly hooked point and silvery-grey green in colour. The flowers are golden yellow, arranged in balls. (Most Australian wattles do not have leaves as adult plants – what appears to be a leaf is actually a structure called a phyllode, which is a modified leaf stalk.)

Conservation status and threats

Acacia ammophila is listed as Vulnerable under both Commonwealth and Queensland conservation legislation. The main threat to the species is the failure to recruit new plants into the population. The problem appears to be the loss of seedlings due to grazing pressure from livestock and feral herbivores. In contrast to surrounding pastoral lands, the number of young plants has increased in the Lake Bindegolly National Park since grazing pressure was removed or reduced.

Potential strategies for sustainable management and growth

Conservation of the species outside National Parks and other conservation areas will depend on managing grazing pressure to allow recruitment of young plants following rain. This probably requires strategic fencing and resting of pastures where adult plants occur, for long enough to let young plants reach a size where they are not over-grazed. Reduction of unwanted feral herbivores is also an option, for example, managing feral goat numbers by regular harvests.

For more information about local and endangered flora please contact us, or visit our flora surveys page.

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Boobook Ecological Consulting has built its success on decades I first-hand knowledge of the natural ecosystems of the southern Queensland drylands combined with practical understanding of the complex pressures that impinge on Australia’s fragile environment.