Acacia paradoxa

Kangaroo Acacia, Kangaroo Thorn, Prickly Wattle, Hedge Wattle and Paradox Acacia

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Mimosoideae

Acacia paradoxa is a prickly shrub growing to 4 m high by up to 4 m across.

This species has a very large geographic range. In NSW, it can be found commonly over the tablelands and western slopes but also in coastal and western plains subdivisions, close to the coast and further west to the western slopes and just into the plains, west to around Griffith, Wee Waa and Moree. It is very common in Victoria, occurring over much of the State with the exception of the far north-west. In Queensland, it can be found in the inland regions around Warwick and Towoomba. It occurs in South Australia from the south-east , mostly along the coast and coastal inland, including Kangaroo Island, to Streaky Bay, as well as north of Port Augusta.

It grows in dry sclerophyll woodland sand forests mostly as well as open areas alongside roads and tracks in regegerating vegetation, on various soil types

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 species belongs to Group 1.

The phyllodes (resembling leaves) are small, elliptic with undulate margins and slightly curved; green to blue-green, to 3 cm long and 0.7 cm wide and with a pointed mucro. Phyllodes are interspersed with prickly thin thorn-like stipules (makes this plant a little difficult to handle).

Very small staminate flowers are produced in globular heads, 5–10mm in diameter, yellow to bright yellow in colour. The heads are produced singularly in leaf axils but are produced in large number over the entire plant.

Seed pods are straight to 7 cm long and 0.5 mm wide.

In the garden

An adaptable frost hardy plant in cultivation and grows best in a sunny, reasonably well drained position in most soils.

It can be kept pruned tightly and will flower profusely. It is an attractive plant when in full flower.

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.

The plant has also been introduced to other continents. In the United States, kangaroo thorn is a well-known noxious weed in California.


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

Likely regenerates from seed after fire.

Other information

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.

paradoxa – referring to “paradoxos” (paradox), from the Ancient Greek words para (παρά) which, in this case, means “contrary to” and doxa (δόξα) meaning “opinion” – capturing something which should not be true but is. This seems to refer to the plant having spectacular blooms which are very attractive, along with sharp thorns amongst the foliage – leading to the paradox “it should not be attractive but it is.”

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

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

Australian National Herbarium – Acacia paradoxa profile page       http://www.anbg.gov.au/acacia/species/A-paradoxa.html

Wikipedia – Acacia paradoxa profile page                               https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acacia_paradoxa

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