Acacia baileyana

Cootamundra Wattle

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Mimosoideae

Acacia baileyana is a large shrub to small tree, growing to 8 m tall.

It is indigenous to a very small area in southern inland New South Wales, comprising Temora, Cootamundra, Stockinbingal and Bethungra districts, on the western slopes subdivisions of NSW. It has naturalised outside its natural range, in places like Sydney and the northern and south tablelands, as well as Qld, Vic, SA and WA.

Australian Wattles at least, can be broadly placed into 1 of 3 recognisable groups:

  • Group 1 – Those that produce juvenile compound-bipinnate leaves and then change to producing adult-phyllodes which are modified-flattened petioles which form the foliage. This is combined with flowers produced in globular balls or heads (or ovoid heads). The heads can be singular in leaf/phyllode axils or arranged in groups.
  • Group 2 – As for Group 1 but flowers are produced in longer rod-like spikes.
  • Group 3 – Those that never produce phyllodes and retain the juvenile compound-bipinnate foliage into adulthood. These always produce flowers in globular balls (which are secondarily arranged into panicle or raceme-like groups in many cases).

It is thought that Groups 1 and 2 are more highly evolved than Group 3.

This species is of Group 3: Leaves are compound-bipinnate (Jacaranda-type) to about 4 cm long, ash grey-green or bluish, the pinnae (groups of leaflets or pinnules) are to 3 cm long with pinnules about 1 cm long and 0.1 cm wide.

Acacia spp. produce small 5-merous flowers, with 5 very small petals partly-fused into a short tube which sits above a fused calyx. The stamens are the main feature which are produced in high numbers per flower (staminate flowers), surrounding a single style.  In this species, inflorescences are very showy, being very bright (fluorescent) yellow in late winter, often obscuring foliage. Flowers are produced in globular heads to 7 mm diameter which each head having up to 25 staminate flowers. Heads are produced in racemes with up to 35 heads per raceme, emerging from the leaf axils.

Pods straight or sometimes slightly curved and purplish when young, 10 cm long and 1.5 cm wide.

In the garden

Fast growing and relatively short lived and suitable as a screen plant.

Attracts bees and seed eating birds.

The flowers are very showy and eye-catching.

Grows in full sun to light shade, in well-drained to moderate moist soils. Will withstand frost.

This species does tend to self-seed, so it is best not to plant it near areas of natural bushland to prevent it from establishing unwanted populations. It can be found growing in areas such as Sydney sandstone woodlands.

Acacias can suffer from a number of pests, including borers, scale, galls and leaf miners. Growing plants suitable to your local environment minimises these occurring.


Propagation is easy from scarified seed by covering with boiling water for 24 hours and discarding any seeds still floating on the surface.

Other information

There is a form with purplish foliage known as A. baileyana ‘Purpurea’ and a prostate form also available.

It is known to hybridise readily with other bipinnate wattles. A. baileyana is used in Europe in the cut flower industry. It is also used as food for bees in the production of honey.

Most bipinnate wattles will regenerate from seed after fire. This group does not tend to exhibit reshooting of trunks or branches after fire but may exhibit suckering from lateral roots and trunk bases.

Acacia is a highly diverse genus, with over 1500 recognised species (placing it in the top-10 most-diverse plant genera) occurring in most continents except for Europe. Australia has about 970 spp., most of which are endemic. There are also about 10 exotic species. NSW has about 235 recognised species. Some species have become weeds in other states outside of their natural range (e.g., wattles from Western Australia into NSW and vice versa).

Acacia – from Greek Akakia – which refers to an Ancient Greek preparation made from one of the many species; the name of which derives from akis, meaning “thorn” – referring to the thorns of species in Africa.

baileyana – honours the botanist Frederick Manson Bailey (1827-1915) who made valuable contributions to the classification of Queensland Flora.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Acacia baileyana profile page:          http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Acacia~baileyana

Wikipedia – Acacia baileyana profile page                          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acacia_baileyana

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.