Acacia cheelii


Family: Fabaceae subfamily Mimosoideae

Acacia cheelii is a small tree with flaky bark that can appear to shed in ribbons.

Acacia cheelii occurs on the Northern Tablelands and western slopes and plains of NSW, growing as far north-west as Moree, Wee Waa and Coonabarabran, extending south-east towards Bathurst and Newcastle. It is very common in the Warrumbungle National Park in central NSW.

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 2: the long phyllodes are up to 16 cm long by 3 cm wide, sickle-shaped, bluish-green with three prominent veins.

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, the rod-shaped, golden flower heads are up to 6 cm long and held in clusters of two or three in the phyllode axils. The flowering period extends from September to November.

The seed pods are flat and straight.

In the garden

Author’s notes:

In our cold climate garden (near Armidale), Motherumbah blooms from late September to early October.

Our specimen is rather shy when it comes to producing pods. Cultivated plants growing in a Tamworth garden also produce few if any pods.

This species can be readily grown and likely provides good garden habitat-values. It is very hardy. Plant in a sunny position, on a soil with reliable drainage.

In the early 1900s, trees were lopped for cattle fodder. It is said to be favoured by cattle rather than Kurrajong, the better known fodder species.


Propagate from seed, treated in boiling water.

Other information

The common name, Motherumbah, appears to be a regional common name from the Warrumbungle area of NSW.

Most wattles die in a fire and regenerate from seed. Some species may sucker from basal parts.

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.

cheelii – named in Honour of Edwin Cheel (1872-1951) – an Australian botanist and collector, who was the Chief Botanists and Curator at the National Herbarium of NSW from 1933 to 1936.

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

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

Wikipedia – Acacia cheelii profile page                                            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acacia_cheelii

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 Warren and Gloria Sheather. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.