prickly moses (Acacia verticillata subsp. verticillata)

Size: 
3-8m high shrub to straggling small tree.
Form: 
Shrub
Natural Distribution: 
Widespread in Tasmania in damp areas and in south-eastern Australia.
Description: 

The first Acacias to be described by botanists were from Africa. The word 'acacia' comes from the Greek word 'akis', which means thorn. Many African acacias have thorns (to deter browsing giraffes) - most Australian acacias do not.

While this acacia doesn't have thorns, it certainly has prickly leaves - which aren't actually leaves at all, but flattened leaf stalks that function as a leaf - called phyllodes (pronounced 'fill-loads').

Its botanical name 'verticillatus' is Latin for whorled - its phyllodes are arranged in a whorl. 

Aboriginal people ate the seeds of prickly mimosa, which are high in protein and carbohydrates, and hung the blossoms near where they slept to help induce sleep.

Habitat Value:

Birds and insects feed on the flowers and seeds. The dense, prickly foliage protects bandicoots from predators. 

(Photos:  Fiona Rice)

STUDENT INQUIRY QUESTIONS

Why are some Acacias prickly, and some not?

How can this plant possibly help you sleep?!

Why do many acacias have phyllodes, instead of 'normal' leaves?