The wonder of wattles is often disregarded, apart from being a stunning spring time display. However, wattles improve soil health, are a source of protein and provide shade and shelter for stock.
Wattles, or acacias, are legumes just like lucerne and clover. They fix nitrogen from the atmosphere for plant growth. Have you noticed grass often grows really well underneath wattle trees? When wattles drop branches or die, they break down to mulch and return their valuable nutrients to the soil. It might look untidy leaving them on the ground but your soil will thank you if you resist burning them.
All parts of wattles – the leaves, seeds, seed pods and bark – have chemical compounds in them that can help to control intestinal parasites in stock. The pods and foliage have a dry matter digestibility ranging from 39-52 percent, making them a valuable addition to stock diet in the drier months. Wattle pods are developing now and will begin falling around mid to late summer. This is often a time of year when there can be stock feed shortages and worm problems.
Wattles make a valuable addition to tree plantings, adding diversity, protection and shelter as eucalypts become established, a shrub layer for additional wind protection and habitat for smaller birds. They are relatively short lived, but will sucker and self-seed if grazing pressure is removed. Fallen branches can be a problem along fence lines and look untidy. However, the rewards of having wattles in the paddock should compensate for this extra bit of work it creates.
There are over 1000 species of wattles in Australia. You may not want to hang them from the Christmas tree but we should certainly be celebrating the benefits they bring for our landscape!
For more information contact Ruth Aveyard 0447 242 474 firstname.lastname@example.org