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Identification of Acacias

Providing names is of fundamental importance for biology because names enable us to communicate and exchange information about organisms. In fact, in the absence of names, biology has nothing to work with, the taxa for this purpose in fact do not exist. Names therefore are not merely tags or labels, rather they are the principal ‘hooks’ by which information about an organism is stored and retrieved. If taxa are poorly defined, or if the names applied to them are incorrect, then the information that is assembled and disseminated is likely to be wrong, or at least its value will be diminished.

It is for these reasons that it is imperative that organisms be accurately named.

Taxonomic keys are the principal means of identifying, or naming, organisms, and there are two basic types of keys:

Conventional dichotomous keys that are normally produced as printed copy.

Interactive multi-access keys that are produced via an electronic medium.

The quickest and most reliable way of naming an Australian Acacia is to use the electronic WATTLE key (see Australia below). It is important to remember, however, that successful use of any key usually requires experience with it and the length of time required to gain such experience is related to factors such as the number of taxa included in the key (most relevant for conventional dichotomous keys), the terminology used and the way the key itself is constructed and functions.

Identification keys for Australian species of Acacia (selected references).

Note: It is expected that future developments of WorldWideWattle will include an on-line identification tool for Australian Acacias.


Maslin, B.R. (coordinator) (2018). WATTLE Acacias of Australia. Version 3. (Published by Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra, Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions, Perth and Identic Pty. Ltd., Brisbane).

Australian Capital Territory

Burbidge, N.T. and Gray, M. (1970). Flora of the Australian Capital Territory. (Australian National University Press: Canberra.)

Central Australia

Maslin, B.R. (1981). Acacia. In Flora of Central Australia (J.Jessop, ed.), pp. 115–142. (A.H. & A.W.Reed: Sydney.)

New South Wales

Armitage, I. (1978). Acacias of New South Wales. (New South Wales Region of the Society for Growing Australian Plants)

Beadle, N. (1976, reprinted 1982). Students Flora of north eastern New South Wales. Part III. (University of New Engleand: Armidale, N.S.W.)

Carolin, R.C. and Tindale, M.D. (1994). Flora of the Sydney Region. 4th ed. (Reed: Chatswood.)

Cunningham, G.M., Mulham, W.E., Milthorpe, P.L. and Leigh, J.H. (1981). Plants of Western New South Wales. (NSW Government Printing Office in association with the Soil Conservation Service of NSW: Sydney.). Although this excellent publication does not contain a key to species it is a very useful pictorial guide to about half of the N.S.W. Acacia flora; descriptions of taxa are also provided.

Fairley, A. and Moore, P. (1989). Native Plants of the Sydney District. (Kangaroo Press and The Society for Growing Australian Plants: Sydney.)

Kodela, P.G. and Harden, G.J. (2002). Acacia. In Flora of New South Wales (G.J.Harden, ed.), vol. 2, 2nd edn, pp. 381–476. (Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust: Sydney.)

National Herbarium of New South Wales. WattleWeb: a web guide to wattles of New South Wales, including an electronic key; also PlantNET provides descriptions, images and maps of N.S.W. acacias.

Northern Territory

Dunlop, C.R., Leach, G.J. and Cowie, I.D. (1995). Acacia. In Flora of the Darwin Region, Northern Territory Botanical Bulletin 20, 1–21. (Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory, Darwin.)


Lebler, B.A. (1981). Wildflowers for south-eastern Queensland. Vol. 2. (Govternment Printer: Queensland.)

Lithgow, G. (1997). 60 Wattles of the Chinchilla and Murilla Shires. (Published by the author).

Pedley, L. (1978). A revision of Acacia Mill. in Queensland. Austrobaileya 1: 75–234.

Pedley, L. (1979). A revision of Acacia Mill. in Queensland (concluded). Austrobaileya 1: 235–337.

Stanley, T.D. and Ross, E.M. (1983). Flora of south-eastern Queensland. (Queensland Department of Primary Industries: Brisbane)

South Australia

Whibley, D.J.E. and Symon, D.E. (1992). Acacias of South Australia. (South Australian Government Printer, Adelaide.) [An electronic key to the Acacias of S.A. is presented at the Electronic Flora of South Australia]

South-eastern Australia

Costermans, L. (1981). Native Trees and Shrubs of South-eastern Australia. (Rigby Publishers Ltd, Adelaide.)

Tame, T. (1992). Acacias of Southeast Australia. (Kangaroo Press: Kenthurst.)


Curtis, W.M. (1975). The students flora of Tasmania. Part 1 (second edition), revised by W.M. Curtis and D.I. Morris. (Government Printer: Tasmania.)


Costermans, L. (1994). Trees of Victoria, ed. 5. (Landsdowne Publishing: Sydney.)

Court, A.B. (1973). In J.H. Willis, A handbook to the Plants in Victoria. vol. 2. (Melbourne University Press on behalf of The Maud Gibson Gardens Trust: Melbourne.)

Entwistle, T.J., Maslin, B.R., Cowan, R.S. and Court, A.B. (1996). Mimosaceae. In Flora of Victoria (N.G.Walsh and T.J.Entwistle, eds), vol. 3, 585–656. (Inkata Press, Melbourne.)

Western Australia

Lewington, M.A. (1998). Mimosaceae. In B.J.Grieve, How to Know Western Australian Wildflowers, part II, 2nd edn, pp. 140–333. (University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands, in association with the Wildflower Society of Western Australia, Floreat.)

Maslin, B.R. (1982). Studies in the genus Acacia (Leguminosae: Mimosoideae), 11, Acacia species of the Hamersley Range area, Western Australia. Nuytsia 4: 61–103.

Maslin, B.R. (1998). Wattles of the Kalannie region: their identification, characteristics and utilisation. (CDROM Publ. for the Kalannie Land Care District by Dept. Conservation and Land Management, Perth.)

Wheeler, J.R. (1992). Acacia. In Flora of the Kimberley Region (J.R.Wheeler, B.L.Rye, B.L.Koch and A.J.G.Wilson, eds), pp. 284–337. (Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Conservation and Land Management: Como.)


Commonly utilised species

(See also references under State listings above)

Maslin, B.R. and McDonald, M.W. (1996). A key to useful Australian Acacias for the seasonally dry tropics. (CSIRO: Australia.)

Extra-Australian phyllodinous species

Pedley, L. (1975). Revision of the extra-Australian species of Acacia subg. Heterophyllum. Contributions from the Queensland Herbarium 18: 1–24.

Identification keys for extra-Australian species of Acacia (selected references).


Ross, J. (1979). A conspectus of the African Acacia species. Memoirs of the Botanical Survey of South Africa 44: 1–155.


Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam

Nielsen, I. (1981). Legumineuses – Mimosoidees. In A. Aubreville and J.-F. Leroy (eds) Flore du Cambodge du Laos et du Viet-nam 19: 1–159. (Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle: Paris.) [Acacia treatment on pp. 40–74.]


Nielsen, I.C. (1981). The Malesian species of Acacia and Albizia (Leguminosae – Mimosoideae). Opera Botanica 81: 1–50. [Acacia treatment on pp. 7–26.]

Southeast Asia

Nielsen, I.C. (1992). Acacia. Flora Malesiana ser. I, 11: 34–64.


Nielsen, I.C. (1985). Leguminosae – Mimosoideae. Flora of Thailand 4(2): 131–222. (The Forest Herbarium, Royal Forest Department: Bangkok.). [Acacia treatment on pp. 156–181.]

West Pakistan

Ali, S.I. (1973). Mimosaceae. In E. Nasir and S.I. Ali (eds) Flora of West Pakistan 36: 1–41. (Dept. Botany, Uni. Karachi: Karachi.). [Acacia treatment on pp. 2–20.]


Acacias (native and cultivated) cultivated in the United States

Isely, D. (1973). Leguminosae of the United States: 1. Subfamily Mimosoideae. Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden 25(1): 1–152. [Acacia treatment on pp. 10–74.] Acacias (native and cultivated) cultivated in the United States.


Janzen, D.H. (1974). Swollen-Thorn Acacias of Central America. Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 13: 1–131. Swollen-Thorn Acacias of Central America.

Page last updated: Thursday 22 June 2023