black wattle (Acacia mearnsii)
Aboriginal people ground black wattle seeds to make flour, and ate the sticky gum which weeps from the tree when insects attack. The wattle's heavy root ball was used to make waddies (clubs). The bark and leaves were used to relieve toothache or apply to wounds or burns.
Early European settlers extracted tannin from the bark of both black and silver wattles to tan (preserve) animal hides for the leather industry.
The common name 'black' refers to its foliage and stems being a darker green than the silver wattle, with which it is often found growing. The species name 'mearnsii' is after American ornithologist and botanical collector Edgar Mearns (1856-1916) who first described the plant.
Small birds and insects feed on the blossoms and seeds. Wasps build their nests amongst the foliage and caterpillars feed on the leaves.
(Photos: Rob Wiltshire/Greg Jordan-UTAS; and Tim Rudman-DPIPWE)
STUDENT INQUIRY QUESTIONS
There are four different acacia species growing naturally in the school's bushland. What are they? What's different about them? What's the same? And what makes them all acacias?
What is the relationship between acacias and fire? What other plants also need fire?