Acacias have been used by humans for a very very long time, around the world. Ancient Egyptians used acacia as one of their major timbers, they even used this very hard wood to clamp shut their Mummy-coffins. They were building boats and furniture out of wattles in 3,ooo B.C. Roman buildings in North Africa, and built structures unearthed in India have all been found to have preserved acacia timbers from 2,ooo years ago. Acacias even make it into the Scriptures, with the Book of Exodus (Ex.25) having instructions to build the Arc of the Tabernacle out of Shittim wood, which undoubtedly came from one of the species of Acacia found in the Bible lands.
Napoleon's wife Josephine was a keen horticulturalist. Josephine's efforts in her beloved garden at Malmaison outside Paris ensured the introduction of many Australian plants to France. When Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania) was just a squiggle on a map, the French ship Recherche made a visit in 1792. On board was a gardener called Felix Delahaye who later became the Empress Josephine's head gardener. Together Josephine and Felix planted wattles in France from seeds gathered in Australia 16,000 km away!
Her husband may have leading men into battle, but she was part of great botanical discoveries.
The British Army planted Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) wattle trees in the highlands of India in the 1840's to use as a quick growing fuel. Today the same Blackwood trees provide shade on Indian tea estates. In fact Australian acacias' adaptability to different soils and rapid growth rate have made them popular for planting in many countries for many reasons - in South Africa, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, China, Portugal, America and Brazil.
Wattle you know wattle you do?
- What's easier to say - acacia or allelulia?! Look in Bible Exodus ch 25 and see.
- Who was Napoleon and what was his wife's name? Where is Malmaison? Who lived there and what was planted there?, find out more at www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/stories/s65943.htm
- Search in library for 'The Flower Chain - the early discovery of Australian Plants' by J&J Bruce. Kangaroo Press. 1998