28 Species of Acacia Trees and Shrubs

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.

Morgan Trimble/Getty Images

Acacia trees and shrubs come from the Acacia genus, Fabaceae (legume) family, and Mimosoideae subfamily. The majority of the species are found in Australia, but some acacia species are found in Africa, Europe, Asia, and North and South America. They are generally long-lived and fast-growing plants, often with deep roots that make them thrive under dry, drought conditions. Acacias have a variety of landscape uses. Most have clusters of flowers that are yellow or cream in color, and some species also bear sharply modified stems or thorns, making them useful for home security.

What appears to be leaves on acacia trees are not leaves at all—they are modified petioles, 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 out with real leaves that change to phyllodes while it is still in its early years. Other species have a modified stem called a cladode. On the species that do have true leaves, the leaves are pinnately compound—consisting of rows of leaflets around a central stem.

Warning

Some species of Acacia include psychoactive alkaloid in the leaves, seed pods, flowers, or stems. The psychoactive agent, known as DMT (dimethyltryptamine), is a powerful but short-lived hallucinogen that has been used for spiritual purposes by indigenous people. Acacia acinacea, Acacia acuminata ssp. acuminata, Acacia burkittii, and Acacia adunca are all species known to contain this psychoactive substance, though none of these are common landscape plants. Accidental ingestion to a degree that produces psychoactive effects is very rare, but it has been suggested that you should use caution not to breathe the smoke when burning brush that that contains acacia plants.

  • 01 of 28

    Acacia Koa (Acacia koa)

    Hana Ranch Tree

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    Acacia koa is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands and is one of the most common trees in the state. Sometimes known as Hawaiian mahogony, the tree's wood is prized for making 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, which are commonly called koaiʻa or koaiʻe. They are quite similar, and some botanists classify them as the same species.

    • Native Area: Hawaii
    • USDA Growing zones: 11
    • Height: 50 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun; may tolerate partial shade
  • 02 of 28

    Creeping Wattle (Acacia saligna)

    Wattle tree in bloom against a blue sky

    Simon McGill/Getty Images

    Creeping wattle, sometimes known as blue leaf wattle, can be a large shrub, a single-trunked tree, or multi-stemmed tree. This is a species that has phyllodes instead of leaves, which with this plant can take the appearance of willow leaves. The species can become invasive because the seeds are picked up by ants and birds that move them to new locations where the seeds can easily sprout.

    • Native Area: Western Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 12
    • Height: 15 to 30 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 03 of 28

    Box Leaf Wattle (Acacia buxifolia)

    Box Leaf Wattle

    Arthur Chapman / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    As the species and common names of box leaf (or box-leaved) wattle suggest, the phyllodes on this shrub are similar to those of the boxwoods (Buxus spp.) This is one of the hardier species of acacia, tolerating temperatures down to 19 degrees F.

    • Native Area: Eastern Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 11
    • Height: 3 to 13 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 04 of 28

    Coastal Wattle (Acacia longifolia)

    Seven Mile Beach access track across dunes.

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    The coastal wattle (also known Sydney golden wattle) can tolerate deer, salt, and drought and 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. 

    • Native Area: Southeastern Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Height: 12 to 25 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    Continue to 5 of 28 below.
  • 05 of 28

    Espinillo (Acacia caven)

    'Espino, Roman Cassie (Acacia caven), Spring flowering, Coastal Cordillera Colliguay (Quilpu) - V Valparaso Region - Chile'

    Jean-Claude Malausa/Getty Images

    After a period of establishment, the espinillo shrub or small tree (often called molina) can withstand periods of drought. The wood is used for firewood, charcoal, and lumber. The lovely yellow blossoms are fragrant and used as a scent in perfumes.

    Note: Some botanists now have this classified species as Vachellia caven. A number of plants formerly classified as Acacia have recently been moved to the Vachellia genus.

    • Native Area: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay
    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 11
    • Height: 8 to 30 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 06 of 28

    Flax-Leaf Wattle (Acacia linifolia)

    Wattle tree in bloom

    Simon McGill/Getty Images

    Also known as white wattle, 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. 

    • Native Area: Eastern Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Height: 4 to 15 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 07 of 28

    Green Wattle (Acacia decurrens)

    Wattle tree in bloom

    Simon McGill/Getty Images

    Gum from the green wattle 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 has earned the nickname "green cancer."  This plant sometimes is called by the common name early black wattle.

    • Native Area: New South Wales, Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Height: 10 to 40 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 08 of 28

    Juniper Wattle (Acacia ulicifolia)

    Juniper wattle

    DavidFrancis34 / Flickr / CC By 2.0

    Occasionally called prickly Moses, the juniper wattle is a thorny species that can be used as a privacy hedge. The flowers can be either cream or white. The species name "ulcifolia" suggests that the phyllodes on this shrub are similar to the leaves of gorse (Ulex). Previously, it was known as Acacia juniperina.

    • Native Area: Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones:  9 to 11
    • Height: 1 to 13 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to light shade
    Continue to 9 of 28 below.
  • 09 of 28

    Kangaroo Thorn (Acacia paradoxa)

    Flowering branches of Kangaroo Thorn (Acacia paradoxa or Acacia armata)

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    The kangaroo thorn can be used as a hedge, thanks to its thorny stems that inhibit passage (the plant is also called prickly wattle or hedge wattle in some regions). This shrub works well in coastal areas, as it can tolerate salty conditions. It is regarded as invasive in some areas, including Australia, South Africa, and California. You may also see this named categorized as Acacia armata, Racosperma armata, or Mimosa paradoxa.

    • Native area: Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 10
    • Height: 3 to 13 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to light shade
  • 10 of 28

    Karoo Thorn (Vachellia karroo)

    Close up of African Sweet Thorn (Acacia karroo)

    David Burton/Getty Images

    Karoo thorn, also known as sweet thorn, was classified as an Acacia until 2009, when it was reassigned into a different genus. It closely related, however, and is still considered an acacia by many people. V. karoo can be either a shrub or a small tree. It has true leaves that are pinnately compound (consisting of rows of leaflets). The wood can be used for fences, firewood, and charcoal. It is an aggressive plant rarely used in landscaping. It is considered to be a weed in Australia, but the gum provides food for bushbabies during the winter

    • Native Area: Southern Africa
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Height: 13 to 50 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 11 of 28

    Late Flowering Black Wattle (Acacia concurrens)

    Black wattle

    Vinayaraj/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 4.0

    Late flowering black wattle grows as either a tall shrub or a small tree. Long spikes of bright yellow ball-shaped flowers appear in winter and spring. Previously, this plant was categorized as Acacia cunninghamii.

    • Native Area: Eastern Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 10
    • Height: 8 to 33 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun to light shade
  • 12 of 28

    Lightwood (Acacia implexa)

    Lightwood

    John Tann/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

    Lightwood, also known as scrub wattle or hickory wattle, is an open, long-lived shade tree with rough grayish bark and twisted seed pods. It can grow as a single-trunk or multiple-trunk tree, and it can colonize into groves by spreading through suckers. It is very similar to (and sometimes mistaken for ) blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon). Sometimes referred to as a hickory tree, it is not a true type of hickory, as those belong to the Carya genus. The wood can be used to make furniture.

    • Native Area: Coastal areas of Eastern Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 11
    • Height: 16 to 40 feet; can reach over 65 feet in the right conditions
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    Continue to 13 of 28 below.
  • 13 of 28

    Myrtle Wattle (Acacia myrtifolia)

    Myrtle Wattle

    John Tann / Flickr / CC By 2.0

    This is a fast-growing, low to medium-sized shrub. As the common and species name hint, the myrtle wattle's phyllodes are much like the leaves of the myrtle. The flowers are light yellow or white. It features red stems that can help add color to your yard throughout the entire year and contribute to its other common name—red-stemmed wattle.

    • Native Area: Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 11
    • Height: 1 to 10 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 14 of 28

    Flat-Top Acacia (Vachellia abyssinica)

    Abidjatta-Shalla National Park, Great Rift Valley, Ethiopia - December 10, 2017

    Emad Aljumah/Getty Images

    This is another former member of the Acacia genus that was recategorized into the Vachellia genus. True to its common name, the flat-top acacia has a notably flattened crown. The bark is reddish-brown and the leaves are bipinnate, about 11 inches long. It blooms with white, puffy balls.

    • Native Area: Eastern Africa
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Height: 20 to 50 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 15 of 28

    Ovens Wattle (Acacia pravissima)

    Sunlit Foliage of Ovens Wattle (Acacia pravissima)

    Abigail Rex/Getty Images

    Ovens wattle is an extremely fast-growing evergreen shrub or small tree with a weeping habit that is especially striking when the plant is covered in its bright yellow blooms. It is sometimes known as wedge-leaved wattle. This species received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

    • Native Area: Hilly regions of southeast Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 11
    • Height: 10 to 25 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 16 of 28

    Prickly Moses (Acacia verticillata)

    Prickly Moses

    Cowirrie / Flickr / CC By 2.0 

    Acacia verticulata is a fast-growing arching shrub that can be trained into a small tree. Prickly Moses has sharp phyllodes that form around its stems in whorls. (The name Moses derives from the name mimosa, not the biblical figure.) Another acacia species, Acacia pulchella, is also known by the name prickly Moses.

    • Native Area: Australia and Tasmania
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Height: 8 to 26 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    Continue to 17 of 28 below.
  • 17 of 28

    Prostrate Acacia (Acacia redolens)

    Prostrate Acacia

    cultivar413 / Flickr / CC By 2.0

    Prostrate acacia, sometimes known as trailing acacia, can be found covering hillsides in southern California. It is one of the smallest species of acacia and works well as a groundcover because it can blanket an area quickly—it has been planted along many freeways. This growth habit, however, means that it tends to be invasive in some areas. 'Desert Carpet' is a favorite cultivar for ground cover use.

    • Native Area: Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones 8 to 11
    • Height: 1 to 5 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 18 of 28

    Red-Leaf Wattle (Acacia rubida)

    Acacia rubida

    John Tann / Flickr / CC By 2.0

    This species is a small bushy tree with leathery green leaves that turn reddish in winter. Both the red phyllodes and stems help the red-leaf wattle stand out during the winter—an alternate common name for this plant is red-stemmed wattle. The yellow flowers are shaped like balls and are clustered around the stems.

    • Native Area: Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 10
    • Height: 7 to 33 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 19 of 28

    Egyptian Acacia (Vachellia nilotica)

    Mimosa fower in bloom in spring

    Blanchi Costela/Getty Images

    Another former member of the Acacia genus, this plant was reassigned to the Vachellia genus, a decision that remains in dispute. If you take a look at the species name, you might guess correctly that this plant is found near the Nile river, leading to its common name. (Other common names include gum arabic tree, prickly acacia, and thorn mimosa.) The plant held medicinal benefits for the Egyptians, as well as serving as a source of lumber. 

    • Native Area: Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Height: 8 to 65 feet, depending on growing conditions
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 20 of 28

    Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata)

    Mimosa branch

    Emportes Jm/Getty Images

    Silver wattle is one of the larger acacias and has garnered an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. Sometimes called mimosa or blue wattle, this is a very fast-growing tree that produces very showy ball-shaped flowers in late winter and spring. It does well outside of its native zone in warmer locations, having naturalized in the Mediterranean regions of southern Europe.

    • Native Area: Southeastern Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 10
    • Height: Up to 100 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    Continue to 21 of 28 below.
  • 21 of 28

    Snowy River Wattle (Acacia boormanii)

    Wattle blooming along the Swampy Plains River at Geehi in Kosciuszko National Park, New South Wales, Australia

    Australian Scenics/Getty Images

    This slender shrub or small tree naturally occurs by the Snowy River in Australia. It is sometimes called Boorman acacia. This plant quickly spreads by suckering, and is a good shrub for dry coastal areas, as it tolerates both salty conditions and drought.

    • Native Area: Southeastern Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Height: 6 to 16 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to light shade
  • 22 of 28

    Spreading Wattle (Acacia genistifolia)

    Spreading Wattle

    Steve Bittinger / Flickr / CC By 2.0

    The phyllodes on spreading wattle (also known as early wattle) are similar to the leaves of plants in the Genista genus. It features lemon yellow or cream blossoms. You can use several of these shrubs to create an informal hedge.

    • Native Area: Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 10
    • Height: 3 to 10 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 23 of 28

    Spike Wattle (Acacia oxycedrus)

    Acacia oxycedrus

    Rexness / Flickr / CC By 2.0 

    You can use the spike wattle to form a living fence through approach grafting. The flowers are yellow and shaped like a cylinder. You can also use these shrubs to form a hedge. Its prickly growth habit serves as a good deterrent to intruders (this is another of the wattles that is sometimes known as prickly Moses).

    • Native Area: Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 10
    • Height: 3 to 10 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 24 of 28

    Stiff Leaf Wattle (Acacia obtusifolia)

    Acacia obtusifolia

    John Tann / Flickr / CC By 2.0 

    This species, also known as blunt leaf wattle, is a small tree form. It is closely related to A. longifolia (coastal wattle) by the resin along the margins of the stiff leaf wattle's phyllodes.

    • Native Area: Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Height: 5 to 30 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    Continue to 25 of 28 below.
  • 25 of 28

    Sweet Wattle (Acacia suaveolens)

    Sweet wattle

    John Tann / Flickr / CC By 2.0

    This shrub has cream-colored flowers that bloom early and give off a sweet perfume. Another common name is sweet-scented wattle. The bark is smooth and purplish in color. A coastal native, this is a plant with good tolerance for salty conditions.

    • Native Area: Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 10
    • Height: Up to 11.5 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 26 of 28

    True Mulga (Acacia aneura)

    Mulga

    Auscape/UIG/Getty Images

    This species can be anywhere from a small shrub to a 50-foot-tall tree. The wood is used for firewood, charcoal, and fence posts. This is a long-lived plant with very deep roots that allow it to survive dry drought conditions.

    • Native Area: Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 11
    • Height: Typically up to 20 feet; occasionally to 50 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 27 of 28

    Umbrella Thorn Acacia (Acacia tortilis)

    Acacia tortilis tree, Amboseli National Park, Kenya

    Diana Robinson/Getty Images

    The umbrella thorn acacia tree forms a canopy shaped like an umbrella. The wood can be used for furniture, fences, charcoal, and firewood. Some believe this was the species used to build the Ark of the Tabernacle in the Bible. This another long-lived, deep-rooted plant (roots have been known to penetrate to a depth of 170 feet). This makes the umbrella thorn an excellent plant for drought conditions.

    • Native Area: the Middle East and Africa
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Height: Up to 69 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 28 of 28

    Weeping Myall (Acacia pendula)

    Weeping Myall

    David J. Stang/Wikimedia Commons/CC By 4.0

    This tree, also known as weeping acacia, is one of the most attractive of all Acacia species. It features elegantly drooping branches and silvery blue phyllodes. The blossoms are light yellow, and the fissured bark is gray or dark brown.

    • Native Area: Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Height: 15 to 40 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun

The Acacia genus includes more than 900 plants native mostly to Australia, southern African, and Middle Eastern regions. While they have generally historically been used mostly for practical purposes (food, timber, etc.) a number of species have valuable landscape uses for certain circumstances. Many are fast-growing, long-lived plants with excellent tolerance to salty or dry conditions that are difficult for other plants.