Invasive Species Compendium

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Datasheet

Acacia mearnsii
(black wattle)

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Datasheet

Acacia mearnsii (black wattle)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 16 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Acacia mearnsii
  • Preferred Common Name
  • black wattle
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • A. mearnsii is a vigorous, nitrogen fixing species that has precocious and prolific seed production, with a high density and accumulation of long-lived seeds in the soil, and a variety of potential dispersal me...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Victoria, Australia.
TitleNatural stand
CaptionVictoria, Australia.
CopyrightSuzette Searle/CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products
Victoria, Australia.
Natural standVictoria, Australia.Suzette Searle/CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products
Typical bark.
TitleBark
CaptionTypical bark.
CopyrightSuzette Searle/CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products
Typical bark.
BarkTypical bark.Suzette Searle/CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products
Inflorescence and foliage
TitleInflorescence
CaptionInflorescence and foliage
CopyrightMaurice McDonald/CSIRO Forestry & Forest Products
Inflorescence and foliage
InflorescenceInflorescence and foliageMaurice McDonald/CSIRO Forestry & Forest Products
Pollarded for shade on tea estates in India.
TitleShade tree on tea estate
CaptionPollarded for shade on tea estates in India.
CopyrightDoug Boland/CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products
Pollarded for shade on tea estates in India.
Shade tree on tea estatePollarded for shade on tea estates in India.Doug Boland/CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products
A. mearnsii bark stripping.
TitleBark stripping
CaptionA. mearnsii bark stripping.
CopyrightSuzette Searle/CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products
A. mearnsii bark stripping.
Bark strippingA. mearnsii bark stripping.Suzette Searle/CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Acacia mearnsii De Wild.

Preferred Common Name

  • black wattle

Other Scientific Names

  • Acacia decurrens var. mollis (Wendl.) Willd.
  • Acacia decurrens var. mollis Lindl. (Wendl.) Willd.
  • Acacia mollissima auct.
  • Racosperma mearnsii (De Wild.) Pedley

International Common Names

  • English: Australian acacia; green wattle; tan wattle
  • Spanish: acácia negra; aromo negro
  • French: acacia noir; mimosa vert; mosa
  • Chinese: hei jing

Local Common Names

  • Argentina: acacia centenario
  • Australia: late black wattle
  • Brazil: acacia negra; acacia-negro
  • Cook Islands: akasia
  • East Africa: blue passionflower
  • Germany: Australische akazie; Gerber- Akazie
  • Indonesia: akasia
  • South Africa: swartwattel; uwatela

EPPO code

  • ACAMR (Acacia mearnsii)

Trade name

  • black wattle

Summary of Invasiveness

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A. mearnsii is a vigorous, nitrogen fixing species that has precocious and prolific seed production, with a high density and accumulation of long-lived seeds in the soil, and a variety of potential dispersal mechanisms including water, mammals and possibly birds. It causes a number of mainly environmental problems and is hard to control because of its ability to form root suckers. A. mearnsii is a highly invasive species, and listed as one of the World’s 100 Worst Invaders (ISSG, 2007). It has been listed as a category 2 invader in South Africa, a noxious environmental weed in the Global Compendium of Weeds, and a noxious weed in USA (Randall, 2012). It is also known to be invasive in California, USA, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Jamaica, Brazil, New Zealand and Réunion, has shown a tendency to invade and cause concerns in other countries, e.g. in India, and is widely naturalized elsewhere where it may become invasive in the future.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Fabales
  •                         Family: Fabaceae
  •                             Subfamily: Mimosoideae
  •                                 Genus: Acacia
  •                                     Species: Acacia mearnsii

Description

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A. mearnsii is a large shrub or small tree, 5-15 (20) m tall, with a trunk reaching 45 cm of Dbh but normally in the range of 10-35 cm. Open-grown specimens are freely-branched from near ground level with a crooked main stem. In forest stands, the stem is usually straighter and may be dominant for up to three-quarters of the tree height. The bark on old trees is brownish-black, hard and fissured but on younger stems and the upper parts of old trees it is grey-brown and smooth. This species is described and illustrated in many publications, among the most recent texts being Wiersum (1991), Tame (1992), Doran and Turnbull (1997) and Brown and Ho (1997). The branchlets are hairy and only slightly ribbed. Leaves 8-12 cm long, bipinnate dark-green with  8-21 pairs of pinnae, each with 15-70 pairs of leaflets, 1.5-4 ×0.5-0.8 mm, olive green; glands  irregularly spaced along the upper surface of the rachis and on the petiole. Inflorescence of globular heads with 20-30 small, pale creamy-yellow flowers in axillary or terminal racemes or panicles. Peduncles golden pubescent, 5-8 mm long. Pods more or less straight but often constricted between the seeds, dark brown to blackish when ripe, finely hairy, 5-15 ×0.4-0.8 cm. Seeds 7 (1-14) per legume,  black, smooth, ovoid, 3-5 ×2-3.5 mm with a short, creamy, aril at base.

Distribution

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A. mearnsii is a native to southeastern Australia, from southern New South Wales and southern Victoria to southeastern South Australia and Tasmania. The northern limit is west of Sydney (33º43'S), and a detailed description of the occurrence of A. mearnsii in Australia is found in Searle (1997). The record of nativity to Queensland by Cronk and Fuller (1995) is thus likely to be erroneous. The tree has been deliberately introduced for forestry to North America, South America, Asia, Europe, the Pacific and Indian Ocean Islands, Africa and New Zealand. In countries such as South Africa it is both an important forestry species and a highly invasive plant outside cultivation.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasivePlantedReferenceNotes

Asia

AfghanistanPresentIntroducedOrwa et al., 2009
BangladeshPresentIntroducedOrwa et al., 2009
ChinaPresentIntroducedBooth and Yan, 1991; Ho and Fang, 1997; ILDIS, 2007
-AnhuiPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-FujianPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-GuangdongPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-GuangxiPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-GuizhouPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-HainanPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-HubeiPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-HunanPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-JiangxiPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-SichuanPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-YunnanPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2007; Liu et al., 2016Kunming
-ZhejiangPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
IndiaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002
-Andhra PradeshPresentIntroduced Invasive CABI, 2005; Chandra, 2012
-Arunachal PradeshPresentIntroduced Invasive Chandra, 2012cultivated and naturalized
-AssamPresentIntroduced Invasive CABI, 2005; Chandra, 2012
-Himachal PradeshPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2007; Chandra, 2012
-Jammu and KashmirPresentIntroduced Invasive Chandra, 2012cultivated and naturalized
-KarnatakaPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-KeralaPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-MaharashtraPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-ManipurPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2007; Chandra, 2012
-MeghalayaPresentIntroduced Invasive CABI, 2005; Chandra, 2012
-MizoramPresentIntroduced Invasive Chandra, 2012cultivated and naturalized
-NagalandPresentIntroduced Invasive Chandra, 2012cultivated and naturalized
-SikkimPresentIntroduced Invasive Chandra, 2012cultivated and naturalized
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-TripuraPresentIntroduced Invasive Chandra, 2012cultivated and naturalized
-UttarakhandPresentIntroduced Invasive Chandra, 2012cultivated and naturalized
-West BengalPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2007; Chandra, 2012
IndonesiaPresentIntroducedWiersum, 1991
-JavaPresentIntroduced Planted Berenschot et al., 1988
-KalimantanPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-Nusa TenggaraPresentIntroducedCABI, 2005
-SulawesiPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-SumatraPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
JapanPresentIntroduced Planted Waki, 1984
-HonshuPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-KyushuPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-Ryukyu ArchipelagoPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2007
-ShikokuPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
MalaysiaPresentIntroducedOrwa et al., 2009
MyanmarPresentIntroducedOrwa et al., 2009
PakistanPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002
PhilippinesPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2015cultivated
Sri LankaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
TaiwanPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
ThailandPresentIntroducedOrwa et al., 2009
TurkeyPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2015Cultivated
VietnamPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005

Africa

AlgeriaPresentIntroduced Invasive Boudiaf et al., 2014
AngolaPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2015cultivated and naturalized
BotswanaPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2015cultivated and naturalized
BurundiPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2007; Witt and Luke, 2017
Cape VerdePresentIntroducedWeber , 2003
Congo Democratic RepublicPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
EritreaPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2015
EthiopiaPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2007; Witt and Luke, 2017
KenyaPresentIntroduced Invasive Cheboiwo and Ongugo, 1989; ILDIS, 2007; Witt and Luke, 2017
LesothoPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2015cultivated and naturalized
MadagascarPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
MalawiPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2007; Witt and Luke, 2017
MoroccoPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
MozambiquePresentIntroducedPROTA, 2015cultivated and naturalized
NamibiaPresentIntroduced Invasive PROTA, 2015cultivated and naturalized
RéunionPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2007; PIER, 2015
RwandaPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2007; Witt and Luke, 2017
SeychellesPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2015
South AfricaPresentIntroduced1850s Invasive Cronk and Fuller , 1995; ILDIS, 2007
Spain
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive DAISIE, 2015
SudanPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
SwazilandPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted ILDIS, 2002; PROTA, 2015
TanzaniaPresentIntroduced Invasive Kessy, 1987; ILDIS, 2002; Witt and Luke, 2017
UgandaPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2002; Witt and Luke, 2017
ZambiaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002
ZimbabwePresentIntroduced Invasive Luyt et al., 1987; Nyoka , 2002; ILDIS, 2007

North America

USAPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002
-CaliforniaPresentIntroduced Invasive Luken and Thieret , 1997; USDA-NRCS, 2004; ILDIS, 2007
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced1911 Invasive Cronk and Fuller , 1995; Luken and Thieret , 1997; Weber , 2003; ILDIS, 2007

Central America and Caribbean

JamaicaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2007

South America

ArgentinaPresentILDIS, 2007; IABIN, 2015
BoliviaPresentILDIS, 2007
BrazilPresentIntroducedHiga and Resende, 1994; Stein and Tonietto, 1997; ILDIS, 2002
-ParaibaPresentIntroduced Invasive I3N-Brasil, 2015
-ParanaPresentIntroduced Invasive I3N-Brasil, 2015
-Rio de JaneiroPresentILDIS, 2007
-Rio Grande do SulPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007; I3N-Brasil, 2015
-Santa CatarinaPresentILDIS, 2007; I3N-Brasil, 2015
-Sao PauloPresentILDIS, 2007; I3N-Brasil, 2015
ChilePresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
EcuadorPresentILDIS, 2007

Europe

FrancePresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-CorsicaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2007
ItalyPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2007
-SardiniaPresentIntroduced Invasive DAISIE, 2015
PortugalPresentIntroduced Invasive Floc'h E le, 1991; ILDIS, 2007
-MadeiraPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2007
SpainPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2007; DAISIE, 2015

Oceania

AustraliaPresentNativeILDIS, 2002; Weber , 2003
-New South WalesPresentNativePlanted, NaturalSearle, 1997
-QueenslandPresentIntroducedSearle, 1997
-South AustraliaPresentNative Natural Searle, 1997
-TasmaniaPresentNativeSearle, 1997
-VictoriaPresentNative Natural Searle, 1997
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
Cook IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2008Raratonga
New ZealandPresentIntroduced Invasive Cronk and Fuller , 1995; Weber , 2003; ILDIS, 2007
Papua New GuineaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2007

History of Introduction and Spread

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A. mearnsii is widely cultivated as an exotic species in a number of countries throughout the world. Large plantations can be found in Southern and East Africa, Brazil and India. In Indonesia the first trials with this species started late in the 18th century. In 1933 it was planted on commercial scale in mountainous areas of Java and by 1941 an area of around 12,000 ha had been planted. Additional plantations were established in the 1960’s in southern Sulawesi, Sumatra, Bali, Peninsular Malaysia, and in the Philippines (Wiersum, 1991). In Hawaii it was introduced in 1911 from California (Motooka et al., 2003). It has been grown commercially in South Africa since 1886 (Deacon, 1986) and is now one of the most widespread alien species (Henderson and Wells, 1986). It was introduced to Zimbabwe for tanbark (Maroyi, 2015). In Rwanda it was probably introduced between 1903 and 1918, with the earliest formal record dating back to 1941 (Seburanga, 2015). It was introduced into El Kala National Park in northeast Algeria in 1970, and now threatens native cork oak forests (Boudiaf et al., 2014). New geographic records are still being registered in some parts of the world, with Liu Min et al. (2016) listing a new distribution at the Kunming Changshui Airport in Yunnan, China.

Principal historic growing areas include over 200,000 ha of plantations in Brazil (Higa and Resende, 1994) and 160,000 ha in South Africa (Boucher, 1980) down from 325,000 during peak tannin production in the 1960s (Wiersum, 1991). More recently, Chan et al. (2015) list the planted area as 110,000 ha in South Africa and around 170,000 ha in Brazil, where it is cultivated in the State of Rio Grande do Sul after being introduced in 1928 with seed imported from South Africa. Records also show 30,000 ha of plantations in South and East Africa (Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi), 20,000 ha in India, 15,000 ha in Indonesia (Wiersum, 1991) and 10,433 ha in China for vegetable tannin production (Ho and Fang, 1997). Chan et al. (2015), however, report that plantations have decreased in eastern Africa.

In addition to the planted areas listed above, there are extensive, largely unrecorded plantings in agroforestry systems in many countries. The tree is regarded as naturalized in Portugal (Le Floc'h, 1991). Binggeli (1999) considered A. mearnsii as highly invasive and in South Africa it is designated a category 2 invader under the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act (1983) (Henderson, 2001). BioNET-EAFRINET (2015) reports it as invasive in parts of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Risk of Introduction

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A. mearnsii behaves invasively in a number of countries, and in South Africa is one of the most serious invasive species. It should not be introduced into countries with similar environments. However, A. mearnsii is already widely distributed globally and so it would be prudent to monitor existing plantings for signs of invasiveness as it may be behaving as a ‘sleeper weed’ in some areas.

Feng et al. (2010) used A.mearnsii as a case study for a risk assessment in Wenzhou, China. The species was given a medium risk assessment score, meaning that monitoring and management should be conducted.

Habitat

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In its native range, A. mearnsii forms part of the understorey in eucalypt woodland (Weber, 2003). In this context, Geldenhuys et al. (1986) describe the tree as an important pioneer in rainforest succession. Outside its native range, A. mearnsii is, according to Weber (2003), an invader along river corridors and in coastal scrub, forest and grassland. It is one of the most important plant invaders of the fynbos, South Africa (Wells, 1991) and also invades pine plantations (Geldenhuys, 1986). A. mearnsii is often found in closed forest as a result of having previously established in gaps when the forest was more open, as it is not able to establish in closed forests (Geldenhuys et al., 1986). It is widespread in indigenous South African forests occurring both along forest edges, in gaps of various sizes and inside closed forest (Geldenhuys et al., 1986) and it can invade pasture land (PIER, 20007).

In Rwanda, self-established stands of A. mearnsii are common above 1600 m altitude, with the species mainly found in the Congo Nile Crest, Non-volcanic Highlands and Central Plateau agro-ecological zones (Seburanga, 2016). The most significant invasion is in montane rainforest (Seburanga, 2015). In Algeria, it has invaded natural cork oak (Quercus suber) forests (Boudiaf et al., 2014).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial – ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Scrub / shrublands Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Scrub / shrublands Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Littoral
Coastal areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

The chromosome number reported for A. mearnsii is 2n = 26 (Wiersum, 1991).

A. mearnsii exists has diploid and tetraploid forms, the latter also having significantly higher levels of chlorophyll (Mathura et al., 2006); however, it appears that the tetraploid forms may not occur naturally, those studies having been produced artificially (Beck et al., 2003). Patterns of morphological variation in seedlings of A. mearnsii were studied by Bleakley and Matheson (1992). Tasmanian and mainland provenances diverged and, in turn, were subdivided into low elevation and higher elevation groups based on morphological features of young seedlings. It is still to be determined if these groupings extend to such economic traits as bark thickness and tannin yield.

Trials in southern China have shown significant within and between provenance variation in growth performance, form and tannin production and significant provenance X site interaction. At 2 to 4.5 years after planting, Australian mainland provenances, especially those from New South Wales and Victoria, were superior to Tasmanian sources and the best of the Australian material was far better than the local landraces (Gao and Li, 1991; Gao et al., 1991). In Brazil, provenances from coastal New South Wales are performing best among a limited number of natural provenances under trial (Higa and Resende, 1994). Searle et al. (1994) reported on provenance variation in frost tolerance of A. mearnsii in laboratory trials. High altitude New South Wales provenances (Bungendore, Bombala-Dalgety and Cooma) and two low elevation provenances, Apsley (Tasmania) and Minhamite (Victoria) were the most tolerant. These results are largely in accordance with field data from South Africa where high altitude New South Wales provenances were significantly more frost-tolerant than low altitude New South Wales and Victoria provenances.

The highly significant between-family variation for frost tolerance within provenances indicates the potential for selection and breeding to increase the cold-hardiness of the species (Searle et al., 1991). A comparison of tannin contents of bark samples from 18 uneven-aged natural populations of black wattle in Australia showed Tasmanian and Victorian provenances (46.9% and 46.6%) had more tannin in their bark than South Australian and New South Wales provenances (39.4% and 38.8%) (Guangcheng et al., 1991; Li et al., 1994). Similar results were reported for polyflavanoid contents and yields of bark extractives (Yazaki et al., 1990; Li et al., 1994).

A. mearnsii shows variation in growth rate, adaptation to drought and low temperatures, and in wood and bark characteristics. It has been an important plantation species outside Australia for more than 100 years and selection and breeding programmes based on local landraces have been established in South Africa (Li, 1997) and Brazil (Higa and Resende, 1994). In South Africa, several traits of major economic importance - tannin content, incidence of gummosis, stem form and survival rates - were significantly improved in two generations of breeding, but vigour or bark thickness were not (Li, 1997). It is only in recent years that systematic range-wide seed collections from the natural distribution area have been made to exploit provenance variation for such commercial characteristics as volume and tannin yield. A breeding strategy to make optimum use of this material and produce seed for plantations is described by Raymond (1987; 1997).

Physiology and Phenology

A. mearnsii is a light-demanding species with rapid early stem growth. Growth rates of up to 3 m per year are possible after 3-5 years (Wiersum, 1991). It is a relatively short-lived species with a life-span of 10-20 years. After fire, seeds germinate and vegetative reproduction occurs from basal sprouting (Weber, 2003). An established grass sward is able to outcompete A. mearnsii seedlings so disturbance such as ploughing promotes seedling recruitment (Kruger et al., 1986). A large proportion of the seed may become dormant in the soil and seed may remain viable for more than 50 years (Dean et al., 1986).

Reproductive Biology

A. mearnsii has a hermaphroditic breeding system (Cronk and Fuller, 1995) and is regarded as an outcrossing species with partial self-compatibility. Estimates of out-crossing rates in this species are variable and range from 48 to 100% (Raymond, 1997). The flowers are mainly insect pollinated, with bees considered the most important pollinators due to their methodical foraging (Moncur et al., 1991; Grant et al., 1994). The pollen is in polyads each of which contain 16 pollen grains (Sherry, 1971; Kenrick and Knox, 1982). Some florets, usually near the base of the flower head, may be wholly male and trees bearing only male flowers have been observed (Sherry, 1971). In a study of a population in New South Wales, Australia, Grant et al. (1994) reported that 90% of flowers were wholly male. A detailed review of the flowering biology of A. mearnsii is provided by Raymond (1997). Trees start to flower when about 2 years old, but appreciable quantities of seed are seldom produced in plantations before the fifth or sixth year (Sherry, 1971). Flowering takes place from October to December in Australia (Searle, 1997), during September to October in Brazil (Stein and Tonietto, 1997) and from late August to early October in South Africa (Sherry, 1971). Mature seed is available for collection some 12-14 months after flowering. It is not retained on the tree for longer than two to three weeks, making timing of seed collection critical (Searle, 1997). Large quantities of seed are produced and these may accumulate to high densities (e.g. up to 20,000 seeds/m²) in the seedbank (Cronk and Fuller, 1995; Weber, 2003). Seeds are also very long-lived, as is common with hard-coated legume seeds, and it may be assumed that seeds could remain viable for 50-100 years.

Environmental Requirements

A. mearnsii is able to tolerate a wide range of sites in various climates from temperate and subtropical lowlands to tropical highlands. The natural occurrence of A. mearnsii falls mostly in the warm sub-humid zone, extending in places to the warm humid zone. At the highest altitudes it occurs in the cool sub-humid and humid zones. The following data are from Doran and Turnbull (1997) refers to the native range, with mean maximum temperature of the hottest month mainly 21-27°C, minimum temperature of the coolest month -3-7°C. The average number of days over 32°C is 1-15 and this species is rarely found in areas where the temperature exceeds 38°C. Coastal localities have no heavy frosts, inland there are from 1-20 per annum and at some higher altitudes up to 80 are recorded, with a record low of -12°C. In China, Yan et al. (1996) report that absolute minimum should be above -5°C to avoid frost damage. The 50 percentile rainfall is mainly in the range 440-1600 mm, and 360-450 mm the lowest recorded. Seasonal incidence varies from a well-defined winter maximum in the south becoming more uniform and tending to a weak summer maximum in the most northern parts of the range.

Optimal areas for commercial plantations of A. mearnsii in subtropical parts of South Africa are above 400 m altitude where the rainfall is in the range 850-1200 mm and the mean annual temperature above 16ºC (Schonau and Schulze 1984). In more tropical areas, A. mearnsii is best grown in the highlands at 1500-2500 m with a mean annual rainfall of 900-1600 mm and mean annual temperature 12-18°C (Webb et al., 1980). There are several papers providing climatic profiles for the species combining information from both natural and planted occurrences; the most recent of these being Booth and Yan (1991), Booth (1992; 1997) and Yan et al. (1996).

A. mearnsii occurs across a broad spectrum of sites, but reaches its best development on easterly and southerly aspects of low hills in coastal lowlands and adjacent lower slopes of the tablelands and ranges. It has been recorded on basalt, dolerite, granite and sandstone but is common on soils derived from metamorphic shales and slates. The soils are mainly loams, sandy loams, and deep forest podzols of moderate to low fertility. The best soils for A. mearnsii are moist, relatively deep, light-textured, and well-drained, although it is often found on moderately heavy soils and occasionally on shallow soils. The soils are usually acidic, pH 5-6.5. It is not common on poorly-drained or very infertile sites. A. mearnsii occurs across an altitudinal range of approximately 1050 m in its native Australia, from coastal locations just above sea level to 1070 m on Mt Gladstone, west of Cooma, New South Wales.

Crous et al. (2012) report that A. mearnsii in riparian ecotones in South Africa is more drought tolerant than native woody tree species, suggesting that it will persist in future drier conditions.

Associations

A. mearnsii occurs in the understorey of tall open-forest or open-forest dominated by eucalypts in its native range. It may occur on the fringes of closed-forest and rarely in woodland and coastal scrub. It can form dense, pure, even-aged thickets especially where it has recolonized cleared land. In low altitude coastal areas it grows with Eucalyptus saligna, E. bosistoana, E. muellerana, E. ovata, E. globulus, E. tereticornis and E. viminalis. Higher altitude associates include E. cypellocarpa, E. radiata, E. smithii and E. viminalis (Boland et al., 1984). A. mearnsii fixes atmospheric nitrogen and this allows it to survive on relatively infertile sites.

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
BS - Steppe climate Preferred > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
BW - Desert climate Preferred < 430mm annual precipitation
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
40 45

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) -5 10
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 14 28
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 21 35
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) -1 17

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration04number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall6602400mm; lower/upper limits

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Anoplophora chinensis Herbivore
Armillaria heimii Pathogen
Armillaria luteobubalina Pathogen not specific
Ceratocystis fimbriata Pathogen
Cylindrobasidium laeve Pathogen South Africa Acacia mearnsii
Dasineura rubiformis Herbivore South Africa Acacia mearnsii
Eurema hecabe Herbivore
Gibberella zeae Pathogen not specific
Lepidiota mashona Herbivore
Loranthus
Lygidolon laevigatum Herbivore
Melanterius maculatus Herbivore South Africa Acacia mearnsii
Meloidogyne ethiopica
Pyrgoides orphana Herbivore
Thyrinteina arnobia Herbivore
Zulubius acaciaphagus Herbivore not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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In tropical countries, this species is attacked by various insects including herbivores (Acanthopsyche junode), stem-borers (Platypus solidus) and caterpillars (Achaea lienardi). In regions with more than 3000 mm of annual precipitation (i.e., Indonesia) most damage occurs from fungal attacks of Armillaria, Corticium, Fomes and Phytophtora spp. (Wiersum, 1991; Orwa et al., 2009).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Water, birds and mammals may disperse seeds (Weber, 2003), but there seems to be some discrepancy about the exact identity of biotic dispersal agents. Smith (1998) states that mammals and granivorous birds cannot be discounted, Cronk and Fuller (1995) cite mammals but Dean et al. (1986) list water alone and other sources exclude birds. Intentional introduction has been common in long-distant dispersal, A. mearnsii having been actively introduced to many countries and continents outside its native Australia, widely planted for agroforestry and as a plantation species, particularly for the tannin industry.

Its invasion of airports may facilitate accidental introduction (Liu et al., 2016).

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Animal/plant collections None
Animal/plant products None
Biodiversity (generally) Negative
Crop production None
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative
Fisheries / aquaculture None
Forestry production Negative
Human health None
Livestock production Negative
Native fauna None
Native flora Negative
Rare/protected species Negative
Tourism None
Trade/international relations None
Transport/travel Negative

Economic Impact

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Information cited in PIER (2007) notes that A. mearnsii can invade and disrupt pasture land thus reducing carrying capacity and profitability of livestock ranching, and as with other invasive species, control incurs an economic cost. In South Africa, major economic losses have been calculated due to reduction in water runoff, with ISSG (2007) quoting an estimated annual economic loss of $US 2.8 million from both commercial plantations and invasive stands of A. mearnsii due to reduced surface runoff and decrease water ability. A cost-benefit analysis in South Africa by de Wit et al. (2001) concludes that allowing the species to spread out of the plantations incurs around twice as much cost as the benefit it delivers to the country as whole. Different mitigation scenarios were ranked according to their cost-benefit ratio.

Liu et al. (2016) describe the rapid spread of A. mearnsii across Kunming Changshui Airport in China. They report that it is changing the structure of local vegetation, increasing the probability of birds strikes at the airport.

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Habitats

The large quantities of litter deposited by this tree and its nitrogen fixation lead to increases in soil nitrogen and changes in nutrient cycling patterns (Weber, 2003). A. mearnsii is one of a number of invasive species in South Africa that is considered to have increased river bank erosion because it is less well adapted to flash floods than native plants (Macdonald and Richardson, 1986). Also in South Africa, encroachment of A. mearnsii into natural grasslands is decreasing soil carbon stocks at some sites (Oelofse et al., 2016).

Henderson and Wells (1986) report changed patterns of water cycling in the subtropical grasslands of South Africa, where less water enters the soil in systems dominated by A. mearnsii thickets due to greater rainfall interception and runoff. This can lead to serious desiccation of the soil (Versfeld and van Wilgen, 1986). Across the whole of South Africa, the estimated annual consumption of water by A. mearnsii is estimated to be in the order of 300 million m³ (Anon., 2000). Due to the ability of A. mearnsii to form shady thickets and drop large quantities of litter, other plant species are frequently out-competed and floral diversity is consequently reduced where this tree becomes invasive (Weber, 2003). A. mearnsii infestations increase rainfall interception and transpiration, which causes a decrease in streamflow.

Impact on Biodiversity

A. mearnsii is recorded as being highly competitive and eventually reducing the presence of native and/or indigenous vegetation, especially in South Africa (De Wit, 2001; ISSG, 2007). The invasiveness of this species is partly due to its ability to produce large amounts of long-lived seeds. Its leaves and branches have allelopathic properties, and Zhou et al. (2011) suggest that invasiveness of the tree may be related to allelopathic inhibition of seed germination of native species. In Réunion Island invasion patches of A. mearnsii are poor colonizing sites for native plant species, with allelopathy suspected as one of the strongest factors preventing colonization (Tassin et al., 2009).

A. mearnsii competes with and replaces native vegetation and it may also replace grass communities, reducing the carrying capacity of the land. In northeastern Algeria, invasion by A. mearnsii is threatening cork oak (Quercus suber) forests (Boudiaf et al., 2014).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Santalum haleakalae var. lanaiense (Lanai sandalwood)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified)US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011

Social Impact

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Preventing the introduction of invasive species is one of the justifications for managers of national parks and other protected areas in developing countries limiting movement of people and livestock through the park. Mukwada et al. (2016) examine park-community conflicts in South Africa arising from initiatives to limit community access to park resources due to the need to prevent invasion of the park by A. mearnsii.
 

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
  • Has high genetic variability
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Infrastructure damage
  • Modification of hydrology
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts forestry
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Allelopathic
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Competition
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult/costly to control

Uses

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A fast-growing, nitrogen-fixing tree adapted to a wide range of sites from the temperate and subtropical lowlands to tropical highlands. It yields bark extractives high in quality tannin, paper pulp, cellulose for rayon, charcoal, and fuelwood. The use of A. mearnsii tannin for production of waterproof wood adhesives for the reconstituted-wood industries is expanding. A useful species for erosion control, soil improvement, shade and shelter, and ornament. A. mearnsii is the only temperate Acacia species growth commercially on a significant international scale, with the main purpose being for tannin production and woodchip exports (Chan et al., 2015).
 
Intercropping is sometimes practised in Kenya (Boland, 1997) and, in Brazil, a crop of maize (Zea mays) or cassava (Manihot esculenta) is often grown between tree rows in the first year. A. mearnsii has also been used in Java, Indonesia as a fallow crop in a rotational system with agricultural crops such as tobacco, maize, cassava and various vegetables. The species has been effective in controlling soil erosion on steep slopes and improving soil fertility (NAS, 1980; Waki, 1984). It is regarded as a superior species in appropriate areas of China for environmental plantations, especially for soil and water conservation (Ho and Fang, 1997). A. mearnsii has been used for shelterbelts, green firebreaks, as a shade tree in tea plantations and for ornamental purposes (Wiersum, 1991).
 
The moderately dense wood splits easily, burns well and makes excellent fuelwood and charcoal. In Australia the wood was once sought after to fire baker’s ovens and is still a preferred wood for ceramic kilns (Searle, 1996). The charcoal is extensively used for cooking in Kenya and southern Brazil. A Brazilian company, Tanac, has developed special kilns for the production of activated carbon (for use in pollution control) from A. mearnsii (Boland, 1987). The wood is used in Indonesia for domestic fuel, village industries and curing tobacco leaves (Berenschot et al., 1988; Wiersum, 1991). Physical and mechanical properties of plantation-grown wood are described by Gupta and Kukreti (1983). The timber must be seasoned slowly to avoid checking. The wood is hard but is moderately easy to work and takes a good polish. Pre-drilling is necessary before nailing. It is susceptible to termite and Lyctus sp. attack. The sapwood absorbs preservatives readily but the heartwood is moderately resistant. The wood is used for house poles, mine timbers, tool handles, cabinet work, joinery, flooring, construction timber, matchwood and hardboard. Poles with bark intact are used to support oyster racks in New South Wales (Searle, 1996).
 
Logan (1987), Nicholson (1991) and Guigan et al. (1991) investigated the pulping properties of A. mearnsii woodchips and found their mechanical, pulping and bleaching properties to be suitable for a wide range of paper and paperboard products. Plantation-grown A. mearnsii is currently being used commercially in South Africa as a component for kraft and soda-AQ pulp production and A. mearnsii woodchips are exported from that country to Japan for use in manufacture of kraft pulps (Logan, 1987). In both South Africa (Sherry, 1971) and India (Nilgiris area), A. mearnsii is used in the production of rayon. Hillis (1997a) provides a review of properties and uses of wood of black wattle.
 
A. mearnsii produces the world's most important vegetable tannin, especially suited for use in the manufacture of heavy leather goods. The bark of the species is very rich in condensed tannin (35-51%, dry weight). Hillis (1997b, 1997c) provides detailed accounts of bark properties and tannin chemistry, while Sun et al. (1997) describes production methods and Xiao (1997) describes the use of wattle extract in tanning leather. Tannin yields are influenced by several factors including genetic variability, age and environment. Tannin industries based on this species have been developed in Brazil, China, Kenya, India, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe (Brown and Ho, 1997). The main exporting countries are South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania and the main importers are the UK, Australia and the USA (Wiersum, 1991). In addition to its use for leather tanning, the powdered bark extract is used to prepare tannin formaldehyde adhesives for exterior grade plywood, particleboard and laminated timber (Coppens et al., 1980; Yazaki and Collins, 1997). It also has a use as an anticorrosion agent of mild steel and cast iron (Moresby, 1997). Other uses of wattle extract are as a fluidizing agent for drilling mud, a calcite depressant in ore flotation, a flocculant in water treatment, in a ion-exchange resin and as a polyurethane-type coating for wood (Wu, 1997).
 
The leaves of A. mearnsii have a high protein content (15%). However, palatability trials with sheep showed milled leaves to be unpalatable on their own, only acceptable when mixed with other feeds, and digestibility was considered to be affected by the high tannin content in the leaves and twigs (5.7% dry weight) (Goodriche, 1978). A. mearnsii foliage is considered to be inferior stock feed in Japan but has been fed to cattle in Hawaii during drought periods. A. mearnsii sawdust has been found to an excellent medium for growing edible mushrooms in China (Ho, 1997). In central Java and Kenya, foliage of A. mearnsii is used as a green manure to improve agricultural yield and plantations can produce more than 20 t/ha of fresh foliage annually (Cheboiwo and Ongugo, 1989).

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Control

Cultural control

Seedlings and saplings younger than three years old are sensitive to fire. However, Pieterse and Boucher (1997) investigated burning standing A. mearnsii trees as a viable management technique but found that a high proportion of mature trees survived to resprout, a large number of seeds in the seedbank were stimulated to grow and the overall size of the thicket increased significantly. In localized areas there are interactions with existing herbivores that limit the spread of this plant. An example cited in Kruger et al. (1986) occurs in the Umfolozi Game Reserve, South Africa where black rhinoceros removes A. mearnsii from river bank habitats. Attempts have also been made in South Africa to produce a sterile triploid variety by controlled crossing of the natural diploid form with an artificially created tetraploid form (Beck et al., 2003). However, this approach, while appealing, may yet create more problems in the future, as naturally occurring hexaploids in most plant species are thought to have originated from a natural doubling of chromosomes in triploids. Thus, plantations of sterile triploids could produce even more invasive hexaploids.
 
Mechanical control


Since A. mearnsii resprouts from the roots, these should be removed (Weber, 2003), and girdling of the stem is also effective (PIER, 2007).

At Kunming Changshui Airport, mechanical control is recommended (Liu et al., 2016).

Chemical control

Glyphosate may be used to spray seedlings and juvenile trees but for adult trees it is more appropriate to fell mechanically, and follow up with an application of herbicide to the cut stump (Weber, 2003). A variety of chemical treatment agents and techniques are described by PIER (2007), including dicamba, glyphosate and picloram used as cut surface treatments and triclopyr, 2,4-D, triclopyr ester in oil and triclopyr amine as basal bark treatments, where it is noted that A. mearnsii appears particularly sensitive to basal bark treatments, and application of diesel alone is also effective.

Biological control

Henderson (2001) reports that both seed feeders and a mycoherbicide are used to control A. mearnsii. ARC (2000) names two agents that it supplies for the purpose of biological control in South Africa; the seed weevil Melenterius maculatus and a native South African fungus Cylindrobasidium laeve that attacks stumps and is applied after felling to prevent resprouting. More recently a cecidomyiid midge, Dasineura rubiformis, which forms galls in the flowers and prevents pod development was released (Impson et al., 2008). As A. mearnsii is an important commercial plant as well as being extremely invasive, it is important that any control methods limit spread without affecting growth of cultivated trees. Impson et al. (2013) report that while this flower-galling midge reduces seed set to very low levels, it does not negatively affect growth of the tree and so will have no detrimental effect on the wattle forestry industry in South Africa.

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gatewayhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m93f6Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS)http://griis.org/Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

Contributors

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05/06/15 Updated by:

Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

16/10/2007 Updated by:

Nick Pasiecznik, Consultant, France

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