September – an important month for Landcare

The Australian WattleSEPTEMBER is an important month on the calendar in many ways for Landcare.
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It is not only Biodiversity Month and Save the Koala Month; it also contains National Landcare Week – a good time to promote the importance of protecting, conserving and improving biodiversity in our region.

Recently a number of Landcare delegates from the South East Region, including Upper Lachlan Landcare delegate’s Nerida Croker and Mary Bonet, spent a few days in Orange as part of the NSW Landcare conference.

September will see the start of many local tree planting efforts and schools education days.

September also hosts Threatened Species Day (7) and National Bilby Day (13), with September 1 recently being proclaimed by Pope Francis to be the first International Day of Prayer for the Environment.

To those of us in the Southern Hemisphere September 1 was the first day of spring and in Australia this day is also National Wattle Day.

The wattle has become an iconic image of the Australian bush, immortalised in story and verse, and the golden wattle is our national floral emblem.

The colours of the wattle are the inspiration for the green and gold in Australia’s national colours worn by so many of our sporting teams.

The first known use of the wattle as a meaningful symbol dates back to Tasmania in the 1830’s when the wearing of wattle sprigs was encouraged for celebration and developing a feeling of national identity for early settlers.

Of course, the original inhabitants of Australia knew all about the many practical uses of wattles.

These included using Acacia (wattle*) seeds and pods as a nutritious food with seeds being ground into flour and cooked like damper or made into porridge.

Australian Aboriginal use of wattles and their knowledge has become widespread and certain wattle species are showing promise as a new food in Africa.

The bush food industry in Australia is expanding and wattle seeds are being used in breads, pasta and biscuits, as well as for flavouring sauces and ice cream.

The leaf and gum were used by Aboriginal people medicinally to relieve toothache and colds, the bark was used for infusions and bandages, the wood for making weapons and also for firewood.

The gum was used as a glue – in Australia, if you’ve ever licked a postage stamp, you’ve licked a wattle!

Many of our local wattle species have had a long history of human use.

Acacia Melanoxylon (blackwood wattle) is a long lived variety used to make fine cabinet furniture.

Another one of our local wattles Acacia Dealbata (silver wattle), is used in Southern Europe by florists in perfume and fragrant oil production.

Wattles can also take nitrogen from the air and make it into available nitrogen in the soil, acting as a fertiliser, and can also form beneficial associations with eucalyptus growing nearby.

Wattles can grow in adverse conditions where no tree has thrived before, making them useful in dry land salinity sites and as a pioneer species for use in regeneration of poor areas.

Wattles also provide essential wildlife habitat for many species of possums and gliders.

They feed on the gum that exudes from these trees, and eat the insects that come to feed on the blossoms.

Birds, butterflies and native bees visit the pollen rich flowers for their nectar.

The shiny black seeds are eaten by parrots and native pigeons.

Black Cockatoos and our local Gang Gang Cockatoos like to search for grubs in the wood of older wattle trees.

So, next time you hear someone say – “ I don’t plant wattles”, remind them of some of the above facts, and if that’s not enough, simply quote from Monty Python on their many uses – “This here’s the wattle, the emblem of our land. “You can stick it in a bottle; you can hold it in your hand.”

*Warning – some Acacia species are poisonous.

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