Acacia ulicifolia

Prickly Moses, Juniper wattle

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Mimosoideae

A prickly shrub growing to around 2 metres high to about 1 to 2 metres wide.

It has a very large natural geographic range, extending up and down the entire coast and tablelands of NSW and west to the western slopes, west to around Dubbo, Temora and West Wyalong. It extends into Queensland, where it grows through the coast and tablelands, west to about Rockhampton but then with a large disjunction to the Atherton Tablelands. It grows through most of eastern and central Victoria, to as far west as around Horsham.

It occurs in dry sclerophyll forests and woodlands, as well as heathlands; usually found on sandy soil and sandstone-influenced areas but alkso on richer soils.

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 (leaves) are rigid, needle-like to 20 mm long and about 3 mm wide with a sharp point.

Small staminate flowers are produced in globular heads, with up to 35 flowers in each head, with heads solitary in the leaf axils; pale cream in colour, occurring in mid-autumn to spring.

The seed pods are 5 cm long and 0.3 cm wide, curved and evenly constricted between the seeds.

In the garden

A. ulicifolia is not too-often cultivated and there are probably more colourful species for use in the garden. However, it has a history of being grown successfully. It is sometimes planted in bushland regeneration projects.

It is a useful if prickly plant, where its features can deter access to particular areas and provide refuge for small birds. Grows best in full sun in a well-drained soil. It is propagated by some native plant nurseries. It will likely suffer on heavy clay soils but could be trialled.

It is a very attractive wattle 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.


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

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.

ulicifolia – Latin referring to Gorse plants of genus Ulex; having Ulex-like foliage.

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

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Acacia ulicifolia profile page

Wikipedia – Acacia ulicifolia profile page                                     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acacia_ulicifolia

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.