Australian Biological Resources Study

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Acacia elata (Family Fabaceae)

Cedar Wattle, Mountain Cedar Wattle, Pepper Tree Wattle


Cedar wattle has a restricted distribution from south-west of Sydney to central and northern New South Wales. Its main occurrence is between latitudes 30-36o S and altitudes 100-750 m (NSW).


A tall, straight, fast-growing, nitrogen-fixing tree reaching 15-25 m. There are many small lateral branches on the trunk. The bipinnate leaves are the largest of any Australian acacia, overall size being 50 x 35 cm. There are 2-6 pairs of pinnae on which are 8-10 pairs of leaflets, dark green above and paler beneath. Short white hairs are present on the leaflets and new shoots are covered with golden hairs. The large, pale yellow flowers are in globular heads. The brown pods are flattened, straight or slightly constricted between the seeds 7-15 cm long and 10-14 mm wide, sparsely covered with short, white hairs. Flowering is December - March and pods mature in late November - December. There are about 22 000 viable seeds per kilogram and seeds require pre-treatment with boiling water for one minute to promote germination.

Ecology/Way of Life:

This species lives in the warm sub-humid and humid zones. There are less than 5 frosts per year on lowland sites but at altitudes over 650 m there may be more than 40 frosts annually and some snow. Mean annual rainfall is 1000-1250 mm with a moderate summer-autumn maximum. It grows mainly on acid soils derived from sandstones and shales in valleys and basins of moderate to steep relief. It attains its best development on sheltered sites near watercourses. It is commonly associated with Eucalyptus microcorys, E. saligna, Syncarpia glomulifera and Lophostemon confertus.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

Cedar wattle is planted in warm, temperate areas and tropical highlands for windbreaks and ornamental purposes. The dense timber splits easily and is suitable for fuel. It can be used for fencing material after preservative treatment and has excellent potential for pulpwood. The leaves and flowers have been used to produce natural dyes. Stem borers can be pests frequently shortening the lifespan of weakened trees.

Other Comments: Acacia elata was named in 1842 by Allan Cunningham, botanist and explorer, from the Greek: akakia = a thorny plant, specifically Acacia arabica; the species name is from the Latin elatus = exalted or tall, referring to its tall-tree habit.

Further Reading:

Further reading: Doran, J.C. and Turnbull, J.W. (eds.) 1997. Australian trees and shrubs; species for land rehabilitation and farm planting in the tropics. ACIAR Monograph no. 24. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Canberra. 384p.

Simmons, M.H. 1988. Acacias of Australia. Vol. 2. Penguin, Ringwood, Melbourne. 319p.

Topics: Soils Firewood Plant structure Germination Timber Windbreak Invasive species/Weeds Nitrogen-fixation Climatic zones Firewood Ornamental


Text & map from Australian Trees and Shrubs, courtesy Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research; text edited by J. Turnbull; photo courtesy S. Searle.

Sponsored by:

Suzette Searle/ACIAR


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