Acacia leprosa

Cinnamon Wattle, Leper Wattle

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Mimosoideae

A large shrub to 6 m tall, potentially a tree to 10 m tall and wide, with attractively weeping branches.

It grows naturally on the central and southern tablelands, as well as the south western slopes and south coast of NSW, south from about Rylestone, with most records west of Lake Burragorang and south of Hill Top. It extends into Victoria, through much of the state where there are many records, as far west as near Horsham.

It is found in dry sclerophyll forest and woodland.

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).

This wattle belongs to Group 1.

Phyllodes (modified leaves) are 14 cm in length, linear or lance-shaped and 3 cm wide, dotted with oil glands. They have a prominent central nerve and smell strongly of cinnamon, particularly in hot weather.

Flowers are produced in globular heads, to 10 mm diameter, with up to 40 very small, staminate flowers in each head. The heads are produced in leaf axils, either solitarily or in groups of up to 6. The flowers are generally pale yellow, although there is a form that has deep pink to scarlet filaments and golden anthers in late winter to early spring. Colours fade as the flowers age.

Seed pods are flat and about 5 cm long by 0.5 cm wide.

In the garden

A. leprosa has been cultivated for many years and makes an attractive garden plant as it is quite hardy and fast growing.

It prefers moist well drained soil but has been found to be drought tolerant. Flowering is promoted by being in full sun but some shade is tolerated. It is tolerant of light frost to -4 degrees C.

It can sometimes break off at the ground when it reaches maturity, after about 8 to 10 years. Pruning should be avoided so as not to affect the naturally weeping shape, although light formative pruning when young will create a more bushy shape.

It is good for screening, shrub or mixed border/bush garden, and can also be used as a feature tree. It is attractive to birds.

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. These seeds though will likely produce shrubs with yellow form flowers. The red form needs to be propagated by cuttings.

Other information

The cultivar “Scarlet Blaze” has unique coloured red coloured flowers, for a wattle and is the only cultivar that does. It was discovered in 1995 by two bushwalkers and is Victoria’s Centenary of Federation emblem.

This species is very similar to Acacia verniciflua.

Most wattles will die in a fire and regenerate from seed. Some species exhibit suckering from basal parts and roots.

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.

leprosa – Latin for “disease” (root of “leprosy”), due to the phyllodes having a whitish, mealy or spotted surface.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild. However, the one, original red-flowering form of Acacia leprosa has since died.

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

Wikipedia – Acacia leprosa profile page                                        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acacia_leprosa

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.