Callicoma serratifolia

Black wattle

Family: Cunoniaceae

A tree, often seen as a large shrub, potentially growing up to 20 metres in height with a 5-metre spread, sometimes multi-stemmed.

It grows naturally in New South Wales and Queensland, in near-coastal areas, as far south as Batemans Bay, and as far west as Lithgow, extending up the coast and tableland-fringes, as far north as Kroombit Tops National Park in Queensland (east of Biloela). 

It is found in temperate rainforest, wet sclerophyll forest as well as gully creeklines in areas such as Hawkesbury Sandstone dry sclerophyll forest. It can dominate creeklines in some cases (sometimes further up sandstone gullies). Around Sydney, it is typically found on sandstone and enriched-soil creeklines. 

This is the only species of the genus and it has simple and opposite leaves (a lot of other members of this family have opposite leaves but often compound).  Leaves are lanceolate to elliptic, up to 12 cm long and 5 cm wide with coarsely serrate margins (hence the very apt species name), with dark green upper sides and white and hairy undersides.  

Flowers are arranged in globular heads, with flowers have 4 or 5 sepals and no petals with numerous stamens. The heads do resemble those of wattles, being pale yellow and with staminate flowers. The heads appear in late spring and summer and average 1.5 cm in diameter and have stalks 1 to 2 cm long. 

The fruit is a capsule, which split when ripe to release the seeds.

In the garden

This plant can be cultivated successfully although it is not overly popular. This is a bit mysterious as it has very nice foliage, can have colourful new growth and showy flowers. It would add much to rainforest and shady gardens. In cultivation, it does not often exceed 10 metres. 

It is reportedly a hardy species and can be grown on a range of soils where adequate moisture is provided.


From half–ripened cuttings which strike easily OR from seeds, without treatment, which germinate readily especially when fresh.

Other information

Callicoma is a plant genus that contains just one species, Callicoma serratifolia.

The common name of Black Wattle may relate to its similar flowering-appearance to wattles. It is also said that it was used in early ‘wattle-and-daub’ constructions by the early settlers (it does have stems that appear flexible). 

This plant also reportedly has the First Nations name of Tdgerruing (Dharawal)

It likely regenerates after fire through suckering stems and reshooting buds on the stems as well as from the seedbank.

Callicomafrom Greek, kalos (καλός) which becomes kalli (καλλι) to describe a noun – meaning ‘beautiful’ or ‘attractive’ and kome (κόμη) ‘hair, referring to the attractive staminate-flower heads;

serratifoliafrom Latin, serratus, ‘saw-toothed’ and folius, ‘a leaf’, referring to the serrated margins of the leaves.

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

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

Australian Native Plants Society (Australia) Callicoma serratifolia profile page https://anpsa.org.au/plant_profiles/callicoma-serratifolia/

Wikipedia – Callicoma profile page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Callicoma

Australian National Herbarium – Callicoma serratifolia profile page: https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/gnp14/callicoma-serratifolia.html

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

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke