Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - FRONT PAGE - with HE­LEN

IN a gar­den with many dif­fer­ent species, it’s quite pos­si­ble for a diminu­tive plant to be for­got­ten. Some­times when weed­ing or prun­ing, I hear a ‘crack!’ un­der­foot.

Oops! Yet again I have de­stroyed a rare trea­sure.

For­get­ful­ness can also lead to un­ex­pected joys.

Like many avid gar­den­ers, my friends and I share plants which we have prop­a­gated our­selves.

Some years ago a plant en­thu­si­ast friend gave me a tiny seedling of Aca­cia phas­moides.

I planted it, and then for­got about it.

The name “Phan­tom Wat­tle” gives a clue to its habit, for when not in flower, it some­how ‘dis­ap­pears’, merg­ing into the fo­liage of sur­round­ing plants. Its phyl­lodes (mod­i­fied leaf stems) are so fine and hair-like, that the plant is vir­tu­ally in­vis­i­ble.

Sur­prise! It’s spring, and the Phan­tom is in flower once again.

The Phan­tom Wat­tle re­veals it­self when it bursts into bright golden blooms of spi­ralling fluffy balls along the stems.

This rare and lovely aca­cia was dis­cov­ered quite by ac­ci­dent in 1967 by botanists who hap­pened to be in the right place [at Bur­rowa-Pine Moun­tain Na­tional Park near Walwa] at just the right time.

A. phas­moides is listed as Vul­ner­a­ble un­der the En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion and Bio­di­ver­sity Con­ser­va­tion Act.

Num­bers of plants in Vic­to­ria have de­clined dra­mat­i­cally in the last 20 years to less than 100 plants. Pos­si­ble causes of the de­cline are drought, cli­mate change and brows­ing and graz­ing by feral mam­mals in­clud­ing goats, pigs, rab­bits and deer.

This wat­tle is wor­thy of a small space in the gar­den.

It also makes an in­ter­est­ing and at­trac­tive talk­ing point.

A. phas­moides is a small to medi­um­sized shrub, and prefers a damp and shel­tered sit­u­a­tion with a cool root run.

In our gar­den it re­veals it­self an­nu­ally amongst a mixed plant­ing of shrubs, only to ‘dis­ap­pear’ un­til next Septem­ber when it draws at­ten­tion to it­self with a burst of fluffy golden balls.

It grows read­ily from scar­i­fied seed which can be col­lected in early De­cem­ber.

TALK­ING POINT: A Phan­tom Wat­tle.

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