23 Species of Acacia Trees and Shrubs

Silver wattle acacia shrub branches with small silvery-green leaves and tiny red flower buds

The Spruce / Almar Creative

Acacia trees and shrubs come from the Acacia genus, Fabaceae (legume) family, and Mimosoideae subfamily. With more than 1300 species and varieties worldwide, about 1000 of these are native to Australia. This plant is also found in Africa, Europe, Asia, and North and South America. Acacias are generally long-lived and fast-growing, often with deep roots that enable them to thrive under dry, drought conditions. Acacias have a variety of landscape uses. Most have clusters of flowers that are yellow or cream in color..

What appears to be leaves on some acacia trees are actually 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 as it matures. 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 a 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 peoples. 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. Some species also bear sharply modified stems or thorns which can be useful for preventing access in certain locations. If you choose a thorny variety be sure to place it away from high traffic areas.

  • 01 of 23

    Acacia Koa (Acacia koa)

    Hana Ranch Tree

    Matt Anderson Photography/Getty Images

    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 habitat for local birds and insects. Another closely related species found on the island is Acacia koaia, commonly called koaiʻa or koaiʻe. These acacias 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 23

    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 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 easily sprout.

    • Native Area: Western Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 12
    • Height: 15 to 30 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 03 of 23

    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 23

    Coastal Wattle (Acacia longifolia)

    Seven Mile Beach access track across dunes.

    Steve Waters/Getty Images

    The coastal wattle (also known as Sydney golden wattle) tolerates 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 23 below.
  • 05 of 23

    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
  • 06 of 23

    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 is used for tanning leather. 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
  • 07 of 23

    Juniper Wattle (Acacia ulicifolia)

    Acacia ulicifolia or juniper wattle
    skymoon13 / Getty Images

    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 "ulicifolia" 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
  • 08 of 23

    Kangaroo Thorn (Acacia paradoxa)

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

    DEA/DANI-JESKE/Getty Images

    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
    Continue to 9 of 23 below.
  • 09 of 23

    Late Flowering Black Wattle (Acacia concurrens)

    Black wattle

     

    LazingBee / Getty Images

    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
  • 10 of 23

    Lightwood (Acacia implexa)

    Lightwood

    John Tann/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

    Lightwood, also known as scrub wattle or hickory wattle, is a 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 is 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
  • 11 of 23

    Myrtle Wattle (Acacia myrtifolia)

    Pale yellow flowers and buds of an acacia myrtfolia or myrtle wattle bush
    Karin de Mamiel / Getty Images

    This is a fast-growing, small to medium-sized shrub. As the common and species name indicate, 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 add color to your yard throughout the entire year. Myrtle Wattle is also commonly called red-stemmed wattle.

    • Native Area: Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 11
    • Height: 1 to 10 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 12 of 23

    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
    Continue to 13 of 23 below.
  • 13 of 23

    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.) 

    • Native Area: Australia and Tasmania
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Height: 8 to 26 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 14 of 23

    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
  • 15 of 23

    Red-Leaf Wattle (Acacia rubida)

    Red stemmed wattle

     

    Joshua McCullough / Getty Images 

    This species is a small bushy tree with leathery green leaves that turn reddish in winter. Both the red phyllodes and stems make the red-leaf wattle a stand out in the winter garden. A 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
  • 16 of 23

    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 fast-growing tree that produces 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 17 of 23 below.
  • 17 of 23

    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
  • 18 of 23

    Spreading Wattle (Acacia genistifolia)

    Yellow flowers of the Spreading Wattle shrub (Acacia genistifolia)
    Albert Wright / Getty Images

    The phyllodes on spreading wattle (also known as early wattle) are similar to the leaves of plants in the Genista (Broom) 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
  • 19 of 23

    Spike Wattle (Acacia oxycedrus)

    Acacia oxycedrus

    Rexness / Flickr / CC By 2.0 

    You can use 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,

    • Native Area: Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 10
    • Height: 3 to 10 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 20 of 23

    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). Both species produce a resin along the margins of the plants' phyllodes.

    • Native Area: Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Height: 5 to 30 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    Continue to 21 of 23 below.
  • 21 of 23

    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
  • 22 of 23

    True Mulga (Acacia aneura)

    Mulga

    Auscape/UIG/Getty Images

    This species can grow as a small shrub, all the way up 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 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
  • 23 of 23

    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

Acacia trees and shrubs are hardy only in USDA growing zones 7 and higher. If you plan to select an Acacia for your landscape, it is a good idea to learn the botanical name of the species you want. Almost all go by several different common names and some are even found now under the genus name of Vachellia. The Acacias thrive in hot, dry conditions and are a long lived plant. Many are considered invasive in the United States and other countries, so be sure to check with local agricultural authorities before planting.

Tip

Acacia trees and shrubs can be excellent choices for dry or salty soils, but they can be susceptible to a variety of fungal diseases, such as rust or powdery mildew. When infected by fungus, remove and destroy affected plant parts to prevent the infection from spreading to other plants.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Rätsch Christian.The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications. Park Street Press, 2005