Acacia ligulata

Dune Wattle, Sandhill Wattle, Small Cooba, Umbrella Bush

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Mimosoideae

Acacia ligulata is a rounded, compact shrub that will reach a height of from 1 to 5 metres.

Acacia ligulata is found mostly in the far western plains and western plains in NSW.  It has a very large natural distribution, found all over Western and South Australia as well as the southern half of the Northern Territory, as well as the western parts of Queensland and Victoria. There are some records as far east as just west of Orange and Tamworth, in 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).

This wattle belongs to Group 1.

The phyllodes are linear or linear-oblong, thick, grey-green with a hard point. In some cases the phyllodes are curved and held upright (see image). Each phyllode has three glands. Two are along the upper margin and one shares the phyllode tip with a hard point. (Close examination of the plant image reveals that the apex, of each phyllode, has been eaten out. The sugary excretion, from the phyllode, has probably attracted insects with a liking for the nectar).

The very small staminate flowers are bright yellow, produced in globular clusters or heads with up to 25 flowers per head. The heads are arranged in groupd of up to 5 in the leaf axils; and appear in late winter and spring.

Pods are straight to curved to about 9 cm long and 1.1 cm wide.

In the garden

This species is not widely cultivated but is known to have its seed collected and be directly-seeded for revegetation purposes (see resources).

Our cold climate garden specimen (naer Armidale, NSW) has reached a mature height of 1.5 metres.

It can likely be cultivated without too much trouble. It is reported to grow fast and is useful for mitigating soil erosion and as a useful screen. Usually found on sandy loam soils – so may need this substrate to thrive.

Foliage and flowers are attractive features.


Propagate from seed and probably cuttings.

Other information

Acacia ligulata is known by several common names including: Dune Wattle, Sandhill Wattle, Small Cooba and Umbrella Bush.

Known to have some medicinal properties and used by First Nations Peoples of Australia (see resources).

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.

ligulatafrom Latin ligula – meaning “tongue-shaped” or “strap-shape” (the root of many words such as ligature and linguistics. Ligatum means “tied” and Ligatus means “bound”) and refers to the tongue or strap-like shape of the phyllodes.

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

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

Mallee Conservation – Acacia ligulata profile page          https://www.malleeconservation.com.au/blog/acacia-ligulata

Electronic Flora of South Australia – Acacia ligulata factsheet                        http://www.flora.sa.gov.au/cgi-bin/speciesfacts_display.cgi?form=speciesfacts&name=Acacia_ligulata

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