28 Species of Acacia Trees and Shrubs

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.
Morgan Trimble / Getty Images

Acacia trees and shrubs are given the genus name of Acacia. They belong to the Fabaceae (legume) family and are specifically categorized in the 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.

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 out with real leaves that change to phyllodes while it's 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.

Most species of acacia have clusters of flowers that are yellow or cream in color, and some may be white or pink. The flowers feature long stamens that can make it difficult to observe the small petals. The fruits are leguminous pods. Many species also bear sharply modified stems or thorns, as indicated by the common names whistling thorn and thorn tree. However, many of the Australian species do not have thorns.

  • 01 of 28

    Acacia Koa

    Hana Ranch Tree
    Matt Anderson Photography / Getty Images

    The acacia koa species is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands and is one of the most common trees in the state. 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, 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 mahogany
    • Native to: Hawaii
    • USDA zones: 11
    • Height: 50 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun; may tolerate part shade
  • 02 of 28

    Blue Leaf Wattle

    Wattle tree in bloom against a blue sky
    Simon McGill / Getty Images

    The blue leaf wattle can be a large shrub, a 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 because the seeds are picked up by ants and birds that move them to new locations where the seeds can easily sprout.

    • Scientific name: Acacia saligna
    • Other common names: Port Jackson willow, orange wattle, Western Australian golden wattle, coojong, blue-leaved wattle, creeping wattle, weeping wattle, willow wattle, golden wreath wattle
    • Native to: Western Australia
    • USDA zones: 8–12
    • Height: 15–30 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun
  • 03 of 28

    Box Leaf Wattle

    Box Leaf Wattle
    Flickr

    As the species and common names of box leaf wattle 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 down to 19.4 F.

    • 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 to 13 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun
  • 04 of 28

    Coast Wattle

    Seven Mile Beach access track across dunes.
    Steve Waters / Getty Images

    The coast 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. 

    • 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: 9–11; can tolerate temperatures down to the 20s in Fahrenheit
    • Height: 12 to 25 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    Continue to 5 of 28 below.
  • 05 of 28

    Espinillo

    '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 can withstand periods of drought. The wood is used for firewood, charcoal, and 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, Paraguay, and Uruguay
    • USDA zones: Tolerates some freezing temperatures down to the 10s Fahrenheit
    • Height: 8–30 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun
  • 06 of 28

    Flax-Leaf Wattle

    Wattle tree in bloom
    Simon McGill / Getty Images

    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 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Other flowering shrubs

  • 07 of 28

    Green Wattle

    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 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 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun
  • 08 of 28

    Juniper Wattle

    Juniper wattle
    David Lochlin/Flickr

    Juniper wattle is a thorny species that can be used 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. 

    • Scientific name: Acacia ulicifolia
    • Other common names: Prickly Moses
    • Native to: Australia
    • USDA Zones: Can tolerate some frost as low as 19.4 F.
    • Height: 1–13 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun to light shade
    Continue to 9 of 28 below.
  • 09 of 28

    Kangaroo Thorn

    Flowering branches of Kangaroo Thorn (Acacia paradoxa or Acacia armata)
    DEA / DANI-JESKE / Getty Images

    The kangaroo thorn can be used as a hedge. It works well in coastal areas, as it can tolerate salty conditions. It is invasive in some areas, including 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, prickly wattle
    • Native to: Australia
    • Height: 3–13 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun to light shade
  • 10 of 28

    Karoo Thorn

    Close up of African Sweet Thorn (Acacia karroo)
    David Burton / Getty Images

    The karoo thorn species can be either a shrub or a 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, pahari kikar
    • Native to: Southern Africa
    • Height: 13–50 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun
  • 11 of 28

    Late Flowering Black Wattle

    Black wattle
    Wikimedia Commons

    Late flowering black wattle grows as either a tall shrub or a 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 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun to light shade
  • 12 of 28

    Lightwood

    Lightwood
    Wikimedia Commons

    Lightwood can spread through an area by producing 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 feet; can reach over 65 feet in the right conditions
    • Exposure: Full sun; may tolerate some light shade
    Continue to 13 of 28 below.
  • 13 of 28

    Myrtle Wattle

    Myrtle Wattle
    Wikimedia Commons

    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.

    • Scientific name: Acacia myrtifolia
    • Other common names: Red-stemmed wattle
    • Native to: Australia
    • Height: 1–10 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 14 of 28

    Nyanga Flat-Top

    Abidjatta-Shalla National Park, Great Rift Valley, Ethiopia - December 10, 2017
    Emad Aljumah / Getty Images

    True to its common name, the Nyanga flat-top does have a flattened crown. The bark is reddish-brown. Some have it 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 feet
  • 15 of 28

    Ovens Wattle

    Sunlit Foliage of Ovens Wattle (Acacia pravissima)
    Abigail Rex / Getty Images

    Ovens wattle has a weeping habit that is especially striking when the plant is covered in its bright yellow blooms. This species 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 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 16 of 28

    Prickly Moses

    Star-leaved acacia
    Wikimedia Commons

    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.

    • Scientific name: Acacia verticillata
    • Other common names: Star-leaved acacia, prickly mo, star acacia, whorl-leaved acacia, prickly-leaved acacia, prickly mimosa
    • Native to: Australia and Tasmania
    • USDA zones: 9–11
    • Height: 8–26 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun
    Continue to 17 of 28 below.
  • 17 of 28

    Prostrate Acacia

    Prostrate Acacia
    Wikimedia Commons

    Prostrate 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. 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 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun
  • 18 of 28

    Red-Leaf Wattle

    Red leaf wattle
    dustaway/Flickr

    Both the red phyllodes and stems help the red-leaf wattle 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 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun
  • 19 of 28

    Scented Pod Acacia

    Mimosa fower in bloom in spring
    Blanchi Costela / Getty Images

    Scented red pod 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. 

    • Scientific name: Acacia nilotica
    • Other common names: Thorn mimosa, gum arabic, scented thorn, Egyptian thorn, prickly acacia, Al-sant, babul, Sant tree, red thorn, gum arabic tree, Egyptian mimosa, lekkerruikpeul, kikar
    • Native to: Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent
    • Height: 8–65 feet, depending on growing conditions
    • Exposure: Full sun
  • 20 of 28

    Silver Wattle

    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. 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: Up to 100 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun
    Continue to 21 of 28 below.
  • 21 of 28

    Snowy River Wattle

    Wattle blooming along the Swampy Plains River at Geehi in Kosciuszko National Park, New South Wales, Australia
    Australian Scenics / Getty Images

    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. It is also drought-tolerant.

    • Scientific name: Acacia boormanii
    • Other common names: Boorman acacia
    • Native to: Southeastern Australia
    • USDA zones: 9–11
    • Height: 6–16 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun to light shade
  • 22 of 28

    Spreading Wattle

    Speading wattle
    ibsut/Flickr

    The phyllodes on spreading 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.

    • Scientific name: Acacia genistifolia
    • Other common names: Early wattle
    • Native to: Australia
    • Height: 3–10 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 23 of 28

    Spike Wattle

    Spike wattle
    Rexness/Flickr

    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.

    • Scientific name: Acacia oxycedrus
    • Other common names: Prickly Moses
    • Native to: Australia
    • Height: 3–10 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun
  • 24 of 28

    Stiff Leaf Wattle

    stiff leaf wattle
    Wikimedia Commons

    You can look for resin along the margins of the stiff leaf wattle's 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 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun
    Continue to 25 of 28 below.
  • 25 of 28

    Sweet Wattle

    Sweet wattle
    John Tann/Flickr

    The cream colored flowers of sweet wattle 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 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun
  • 26 of 28

    True Mulga

    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.

    • Scientific name: Acacia aneura
    • Other common names: Mulga acacia, mulga
    • Native to: Australia
    • USDA zones: 8b–11
    • Height: Typically up to 20 feet but can be up to 50 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun
  • 27 of 28

    Umbrella Thorn Acacia

    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.

    • Scientific name: Acacia tortilis
    • Other common names: Israeli babool, umbrella thorn, al somar
    • Native to: the Middle East and Africa
    • Height: Up to 69 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun
  • 28 of 28

    Weeping Myall

    Weeping Myall
    Wikimedia Commons

    For an attractive specimen tree with drooping branches, choose the weeping myall. This species features gray-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 feet
    • Exposure: Full sun