Acacia pubescens

Downy wattle

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Mimosoideae

Acacia pubescens is a spreading to slightly weeping shrub, to 5 metres high with smooth bark.

The species chiefly occurs in Sydney, NSW; in open dry sclerophyll woodland on alluvial gravel soils, often with ironstone, around the Bankstown-Fairfield-Rookwood area and the Pitt Town-Scheyville area. It can also occur at Barden Ridge, Oakdale and Mountain Lagoon to the west, extending to Nowra and Aylmerton to the south, south-west. (This Editor has seen plants growing in clumps in the front rural-yards of properties at Pitt Town-Scheyville).

Acacia pubescens is threatened by the loss of much of its habitat through urbanisation in the Sydney region. Hence, it is listed as threatened with extinction at the Commonwealth and State level.

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 3.

It is has grey-blue-green bipinnate leaves to about 7 cm long, with very small leaflets (pinnules) to 5 mm long and 1 mm wide, which are crowded.

Very small staminate flowers are produced in globular heads with up to 16 flowers per head. The heads are then grouped into panicles with up to 50 heads per panicle; deep yellow and occurring in late winter to mid-spring (August to October)

This species does not appear to set much seed and any pods to be found are straight to 8 cm long and 6.5 mm wide. It suckers vigorously and can even grow from root/stem fragments.

In the garden

It is an attractive garden plant and grows quickly. Seed is rarely available but it can be propagated by cuttings or by division and transplanting of suckers.

Being a listed threatened species, it is unlikely hard to source from local nurseries.

This species exists as copses in the rural-residential yards of properties around Pitt Town and Scheyville in western Sydney. So can likely grow well in any garden.

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. It can also be propagated from cuttings.

Other information

Hybrids with Cootamundra wattle (Acacia baileyana) and West Wyalong wattle (A. cardiophylla) have been reported.

Fire response: It can possibly regenerate from suckers as transplanted root fragments are known to grow. Suckering after fire is likely as well as regeneration from any seedbank. Can regenerate vigorously after soil disturbance.

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.

pubescens – Latin – covered with short, soft hairs; referring to the foliage and stems which are downy.

This species is listed as threatened with extinction, with the category of Vulnerable at the Commonwealth and State level.

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage – Threatened Species Profiles – Acacia pubescens

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

Wattle – Acacias of Australia – Acacia pubescens profile page  https://apps.lucidcentral.org/wattle/text/entities/acacia_pubescens.htm

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