Meet Species of Acacia Trees and Shrubs

  • 01 of 30

    An Overview of the Acacia Genus

    AcaciaTreesShrubsCollage.jpg
    Photo Credits on Individual Pages.

    The acacia trees and shrubs are given the genus name of Acacia. Other species that used to be included in this genus are included in the Acacieae tribe. You may often see the name wattle used, and whistling thorn or thorn tree are other common names. The majority of the species are found in Australia. There are also species found in Africa, Europe, Asia and North and South America.

    They belong to the Fabaceae (legume) family. They are specifically categorized in the Mimosoideae subfamily....MORE Examples of other family members include the eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis),yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea), Kentucky coffee tree (Gymnocladus dioicus), weeping pagoda (Sophora japonica 'Pendula'), common gorse (Ulex europaeus), black locust(Robinia pseudoacacia), Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) and carob (Ceratonia siliqua).  

    Some species are awaiting formal reclassification into proposed genera named VachelliaMariosousa, and Senegalia.

    The "leaves" on many of the species are not leaves at all. They have modified petioles, which are the parts of the stem that attach the leaves to the branch. When the petioles form in this manner, they are called phyllodes. The plant may start with real leaves and change to phyllodes while still in its early years. Other species have a modified stem called a cladode. On the species that do have true leaves, they are pinnately compound.

    Most species have clusters of flowers that are yellow or cream in color. Some may be white or pink. They feature long stamens that can make it difficult to observe the small petals. The fruits are leguminous pods.

    As the names whistling thorn and thorn tree suggest, many species bear these sharply modified stems. Many of the Australian species do not have thorns, though.

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  • 02 of 30

    Acacia Koa

    Photo of the acacia koa tree
    Image by Scot Nelson via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

    This acacia species is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands and is one of the most common trees in the state. The wood is prized and has been used to make guitars, surfboards, and outrigger canoes. Mature trees also serve as a habitat for local birds and insects.

    Another very closely related species found on the island is Acacia koaia, named koaiʻa or koaiʻe. They are quite similar and some botanists classify them as the same species.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia koa
    • Other Common Names: Koa, Hawaiian...MORE mahogany
    • Native to: Hawaii
    • USDA Zones: 11
    • Height: 50'+ tall
    • Exposure: Full sun, may stand part shade
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  • 03 of 30

    Blue Leaf Wattle

    Picture of the Blue Leaf Wattle
    Image by Doug Beckers via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

    The blue leaf wattle can either be a large shrub, single-trunked tree or multi-stemmed tree. This is another species that has phyllodes instead of leaves. They have an appearance that is similar to willow leaves. The species can become invasive since the seeds are picked up by ants and birds who move them to new locations where they easily sprout.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia saligna
    • Other Common Names: Port Jackson willow, orange wattle, Western Australian golden wattle, coojong, blue-leaved wattle,...MORE creeping wattle, weeping wattle, willow wattle and golden wreath wattle
    • Native to: Western Australia
    • Height: 15-30' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun
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  • 04 of 30

    Box Leaf Wattle

    Picture of the box-leaf wattle
    Image by dhobern via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

    As the species and common names suggest, the phyllodes on this shrub are similar to those of the boxwoods (Buxus spp.) This is one of the hardier species and can tolerate temperatures up to -7 Celsius (19.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

    • Scientific Name: Acacia buxifolia
    • Other Common Names: Box-leaved wattle, crescent acacia, hill wattle, box leaf thorn, box-leaved acacia
    • Native to: Australia
    • Height: 3-13' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun
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  • 05 of 30

    Coast Wattle

    Picture of the coast wattle
    Image by dhobern via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

    This wattle can tolerate deer, salt, and drought. It can be used to create a living fence. Green and yellow dyes can be made from the seeds and flowers, respectively. In some areas, it can become invasive. 

    • Scientific Name: Acacia longifolia
    • Other Common Names: Sydney wattle, long-leaved wattle, Sydney golden wattle, sallow wattle, golden wattle, aroma double, acacia trainers
    • Native to: Southeastern Australia
    • USDA Zones: Can tolerate temperatures down to the 20s in Fahrenheit
    • Height: 12-25' tall
    • Ex...MOREposure: Full sun to part shade
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  • 06 of 30

    Espinillo

    Picture of Espinillo
    Image by Tehhen via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives license

    After a period of establishment, this shrub or small tree can withstand periods of drought. The wood is used as firewood, to create charcoal or as lumber. Some botanists now have this classified as Vachellia caven. The lovely yellow blossoms are fragrant and used as a scent in perfumes.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia caven
    • Other Common Names: Espino maulino, churque, aromita, espinillo de baado, Roman cassie, caven, churqui, molina, amorito, aromo criollo and churque
    • Native to: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile,...MORE Paraguay, and Uruguay
    • USDA Zones: Tolerates some freezing temperatures down to the 10s Fahrenheit
    • Height: 8-30' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun
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  • 07 of 30

    Flax-Leaf Wattle

    Picture of the Flax-Leaf Wattle
    Image by John Tann via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution license

    This acacia shrub has phyllodes that are similar to flax leaves. The flowers are cream or light yellow in color and may appear in both summer (which is December to March in the Southern Hemisphere) and winter (June to September). In some areas, it can take over and become invasive. 

    • Scientific Name: Acacia linifolia
    • Other Common Names: Flax-leaved wattle, white wattle
    • Native to: Eastern Australia
    • USDA Zones: 9-11
    • Height: 4-15' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade
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  • 08 of 30

    Green Wattle

    Picture of the green wattle
    Image by brewbooks via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

    Gum from this tree can be eaten and is used in jellies. The flowers are also edible. The bark can be used for tanning. In South Africa it is considered to be invasive and nicknamed "green cancer". 

    • Scientific Name: Acacia decurrens
    • Other Common Names: Sydney wattle, wattah, Queen wattle, black wattle, golden teak, early black wattle, wattle bark, tan wattle, Brazilian teak, golden wattle, acacia bark
    • Native to: New South Wales, Australia
    • USDA Zones: 9-11
    • Height: 10-40' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun
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  • 09 of 30

    Juniper Wattle

    Picture of the juniper wattle
    Image by lookscloser via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

    You can use this thorny species as a privacy hedge. The species name of ulcifolia suggests that the phyllodes on this shrub are similar to the leaves of gorse(Ulex). Previously it was known as Acacia juniperina. The flowers can be either cream or white. This shrub can tolerate some frost as low as -7 Celsius (19.4 Fahrenheit).

    • Scientific Name: Acacia ulicifolia
    • Other Common Names: Prickly Moses
    • Native to: Australia
    • Height: 1-13' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to light shade
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  • 10 of 30

    Kangaroo Thorn

    Picture of the kangaroo thorn
    Image by John Tann via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

    The kangaroo thorn can be used as a hedge. It works well in coastal areas since it can tolerate salty conditions. It is invasive in areas like Australia, South Africa, and California. You may also see this named as Acacia armata, Racosperma armata or Mimosa paradoxa.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia paradoxa
    • Other Common Names: Paradox acacia, kangaroo thorn acacia, hedge wattle and prickly wattle
    • Native to: Australia
    • Height: 3-13' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to light shade
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  • 11 of 30

    Karoo Thorn

    Picture of the Karoo thorn
    Image by flowcomm via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution license

    This species can be either a shrub or small tree. It has true leaves that are pinnately compound. The wood can be used for fences, firewood, and charcoal. Bush babies like to eat the gum during the winter. It is considered to be a weed in Australia.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia karroo
    • Other Common Names: Sweet thorn, cassie piquants blancs, doringboom, doorn boom, soetdorning, udai vel, mormati, cape gum, mookana, piquants blancs, cockspur thorn, cassie, kaludai, deo-babool, kikar, umuNga, mimosa thorn...MORE and pahari kikar
    • Native to: Southern Africa
    • Height: 13-50' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun
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  • 12 of 30

    Late Flowering Black Wattle

    Picture of the late flowering black wattle
    Image by Tatters:) via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution license

    This is either a tall shrub or small tree. Long spikes of yellow flowers appear in winter and spring. In the past, it was known as Acacia cunninghamii.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia concurrens
    • Other Common Names: Black wattle, curracabah
    • Native to: Eastern Australia
    • Height: 8-33' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to light shade
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  • 13 of 30

    Lightwood

    Picture of the lightwood
    Image by dhobern via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

    It can spread through an area since it produces suckers. The wood can be used to make furniture. It is very similar to blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon). It is not a true type of hickory as those belong to the Carya genus. Lightwood has twisted seed pods.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia implexa
    • Other Common Names: Scrub wattle, hickory, sally wattle, hickory wattle, broad-leaf wattle
    • Native to: Eastern Australia
    • Height: 16-40' tall. Can reach 20 meters (65.6 feet) in the right conditions.
    • Exposure: Ful...MOREl sun, may take some light shade
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  • 14 of 30

    Myrtle Wattle

    Picture of the myrtle wattle
    Image by John Tann via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

    As the common and species name hint, the phyllodes are much like the leaves of the myrtle. The flowers are light yellow or white. It does feature red stems that can help add color to your yard throughout the entire year.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia myrtifolia
    • Other Common Names: Red-stemmed wattle
    • Native to: Australia
    • Height: 1-10' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade
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  • 15 of 30

    Nyanga Flat-Top

    Picture of the Nyanga flat-top
    Image by geichhorn via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution license

    This species does have a flattened crown. The bark is reddish-brown. Some have this designated as Vachellia abyssinica.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia abyssinica
    • Other Common Names: Flat top acacia, feathery acacia, Ethiopian acacia, Invanaa flat-top acacia
    • Native to: Eastern Africa
    • USDA Zones: 9-11
    • Height: 20-50'+ tall
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  • 16 of 30

    Ovens Wattle

    Picture of the Ovens wattle
    Image by dhobern via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution license

    This species has a weeping habit, which is especially striking when it is covered in the bright yellow blooms. The Ovens wattle received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia pravissima
    • Other Common Names: Wedge-leaved wattle, winged acacia, alpine acacia
    • Native to: New South Wales, Australia
    • USDA Zones: 8-11
    • Height: 10-25' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade
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  • 17 of 30

    Prickly Moses

    Picture of the prickly Moses
    Image by John Tann via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

    The sharp phyllodes form around the stem in whorls. The name Moses came about because of the name mimosa, not the biblical figure. Acacia pulchella is also known by the name prickly Moses

    • Scientific Name: Acacia verticillata
    • Other Common Names: Star-leaved acacia, prickly mo, star acacia, whorl-leaved acacia, prickly-leaved acacia, and prickly mimosa
    • Native to: Australia and Tasmania
    • USDA Zones: 9-11
    • Height: 8-26' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun
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  • 18 of 30

    Prostrate Acacia

    Photo of the prostrate acacia
    Image by Stan Shebs via Wikimedia CC Attribution-Share Alike license

    This is my favorite acacia since the hillsides in the back of my parents' home and business in Southern California was covered with the shrub. The prostrate acacia is one of the smallest species and can work well as a groundcover, especially since it can blanket an area quickly. This growth habit, however, means that it tends to be invasive in some areas.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia redolens
    • Other Common Names: Trailing acacia, bank catclaw
    • Native to: Australia
    • USDA Zones: 9-11
    • Height: 1-5' tall
    • Ex...MOREposure: Full sun
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  • 19 of 30

    Red-Leaf Wattle

    Picture of the red-leaf wattle
    Image by dhobern via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution license

    Both the red phyllodes and stems help this species to stand out during the winter. The yellow flowers are shaped like balls and are clustered around the stems.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia ​rubida
    • Other Common Names: Red-stemmed wattle
    • Native to: Australia
    • Height: 7-33' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun
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  • 20 of 30

    Scented Pod Acacia

    Picture of the Scented Pod Acacia
    Image by TREEAID via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

    This was originally considered to be the type species for Acacia, though this is no longer the case since the genus has been reorganized. If you take a look at the species name, you might guess correctly that this has grown near the Nile river. It held medicinal benefits for the Egyptians, as well as serving as a source of lumber. This is another species that is possibly slated to have its genus name changed. It would be Vachellia nilotica.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia nilotica
    • Other Common Names: Thorn...MORE mimosa, gum arabic, scented thorn, Egyptian thorn, prickly acacia, Al-sant, babul, Sant tree, red thorn, gum arabic tree, Egyptian mimosa, lekkerruikpeul and kikar
    • Native to: Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent
    • Height: Anywhere from 8-65' tall depending on growing conditions
    • Exposure: Full sun
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  • 21 of 30

    Silver Wattle

    Picture of the silver wattle
    Image by pizzodisevo via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

    This is one of the larger acacias and is another Acacia species that has garnered an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. It does well outside of its native zone in warmer locations.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia dealbata
    • Other Common Names: Blue wattle, mimosa
    • Native to: Southeastern Australia
    • Height: Can be up to 100' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun
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  • 22 of 30

    Snowy River Wattle

    Picture of the Snowy River Wattle
    Image by ibsut via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution license

    This shrub naturally occurs by the Snowy River in Australia. It suckers and spreads. This is a good shrub for the coast as it can handle some salty conditions. Drought is also tolerated by this plant.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia boormanii
    • Other Common Names: Boorman acacia
    • Native to: Southeastern Australia
    • USDA Zones: 9-11
    • Height: 6-16' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to light shade
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  • 23 of 30

    Spreading Wattle

    Picture of the spreading wattle
    Image by dhobern via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution license

    The phyllodes on this species are similar to the leaves of plants in the Genista genus. It features lemon yellow or cream colored blossoms. You can use several of these shrubs to create an informal hedge.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia genistifolia
    • Other Common Names: Early wattle
    • Native to: Australia
    • Height: 3-10' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade
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  • 24 of 30

    Spike Wattle

    Picture of the spike wattle
    Image by Doug Beckers via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

    You can use the spike wattle to form a living fence by approach grafting. The flowers are yellow and shaped like a cylinder. You can use these shrubs to form a hedge.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia oxycedrus
    • Other Common Names: Prickly Moses
    • Native to: Australia
    • Height: 3-10' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun
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  • 25 of 30

    Stiff Leaf Wattle

    Picture of the stiff leaf wattle
    Image by John Tann via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution license

    You can look for resin along the margins of the phyllodes to help distinguish this species from its close relative, Acacia longifolia.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia obtusifolia
    • Other Common Names: Blunt leaf wattle
    • Native to: Australia
    • USDA Zones: 9-11
    • Height: 5-30' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun
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  • 26 of 30

    Sweet Wattle

    Picture of the sweet wattle
    Image by John Tann via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution license

    The cream colored flowers of this species bloom early and give off a sweet perfume. It can handle conditions that are a bit salty.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia suaveolens
    • Other Common Names: Sweet-scented wattle
    • Native to: Australia
    • Height: Up to 11.5' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun
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  • 27 of 30

    True Mulga

    Picture of the true mulga
    Image by djpmapleferryman via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

    This species can be anywhere from a small shrub to a 50' tree. The wood is used for firewood, charcoal and fence posts.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia aneura
    • Other Common Names: Mulga acacia, mulga
    • Native to: Australia
    • USDA Zones: 8b-11
    • Height: Usually up to 20' tall, but can be 50'
    • Exposure: Full sun
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  • 28 of 30

    Umbrella Thorn Acacia

    Picture of the Umbrella Thorn Acacia
    Image by justin via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

    The tree forms a canopy shaped like an umbrella. The wood can be used for furniture, fences, charcoal and firewood. Some think this was the species used to build the Ark of the Tabernacle in the Bible.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia tortilis
    • Other Common Names: Israeli babool, umbrella thorn, al somar
    • Native to: The Middle East and Africa
    • Height: Up to 69' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun
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  • 29 of 30

    Weeping Myall

    Picture of the Weeping Myall
    Image by expom2uk via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

    For an attractive specimen tree with drooping branches, choose the weeping myall. This species features grey-blue phyllodes and light yellow blossoms.

    • Scientific Name: Acacia pendula
    • Other Common Names: Boree, myall, nilyah, true myall, silver-leaf boree, weeping acacia
    • Native to: Australia
    • USDA Zones: 9-11
    • Height:15-40' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun
    • More weeping trees
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  • 30 of 30

    More Tropical Trees and Shrubs

    Low Angle View Of Trees Against Sky
    Fanny Wong / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Here are additional beautiful and exotic tropical trees and shrubs: