Blackwood: worthy champion for National Wattle Day
September the 1st is National Wattle Day. With over 240 species in NSW, there’s bound to be one in the bush, on a road verge or in a park near you. Perhaps it’s Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon), a widespread species that rapidly colonises disturbed sites (thus also known as a ‘pioneer’). It is long-lived, up to 100 years in wet sclerophyll and rainforest communities, and can be found in association with a number of different vegetation types, such as open forest and mountain heath. Its growth form varies greatly (depending on aspect, altitude, rainfall and latitude) from a shrub to a tall tree (10-20m) and in higher rainfall areas, such as western Tasmania, Blackwood may grow up to 35m, making it the second tallest wattle species in Australia.
Its name (Blackwood is a direct translation from the botanical species name, melanoxylon) is derived from the colour of its heartwood, which can be light reddish- to dark brown. The sawn timber is very decorative with a high sheen well suited for cabinet and furniture veneer; it has also become popular with luthiers (stringed-instrument makers) as the polished wood has a beautiful golden flame-like quality.
Blackwood is used by a range of native wildlife. Caterpillars of numerous butterflies (such as the Tailed Emperor) feed on its phyllodes (modified leaves). The larvae of wood-boring (for example, Longicorn) beetles often make a home for themselves in Blackwood, and are a favourite food of Black-cockatoos. These large birds will often seek out the beetle larvae by listening for the sound of the larva’s jaws chomping through the wood. The muscular beaks of the cockatoos cut through branches, enabling them to prise larvae out from their hitherto safe sub-boreal tunnels.
Blackwood is a diverse and widespread species that provides habitat and resources for a great many native fauna, in addition to playing vital roles in the nitrogen cycle and rainforest regeneration. So, this National Wattle Day, let’s celebrate the diversity and versatility of the noble acacia!
By Tiffany Mason in our Orange office