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.