Go to Species Gallery Go to Image Gallery Go to Info Gallery Go to For Schools Go to Contact Go to About  

Acacia pulchella

Jump to a taxon beginning with the letter:

Acacia pulchella R.Br., in W.T.Aiton, Hortus Kew. 2nd edn, 5: 464 (1813).

Prickly Moses

Shrub mostly 0.5– 1.5 m high. Branchlets hairy or glabrous. Axillary spines 1 or 2 per node, sometimes few or absent, mostly 2– 20 mm long. Stipules scarious. Leaves bipinnate; pinnae 1 pair, 1– 15 mm long; petiole <0.5– 6 mm long; pinnules 2– 11 pairs, oblong to obovate or oblanceolate, 1- 6 mm long, 0.5– 2 mm wide, flat, green to glaucous, glabrous to puberulous; gland within axil of pinnae, stipitate, to 3 mm long. Inflorescences rudimentary 1– 3-headed racemes with axes to c. 3 mm long; peduncles 1– 15 (– 20) mm long, glabrous or hairy; heads globular, 10– 40-flowered, infrequently to 60-flowered, golden; bracteoles apiculate to long-acuminate. Flowers 5-merous; sepals 1/2– 2/3-united. Pods narrowly oblong, flat or slightly undulate, 1.5– 5 cm long, mostly 3– 5 mm wide, crustaceous, glabrous or pubescent; margins thick. Seeds longitudinal, mostly oblong, 2.5– 4.5 mm long, brown, arillate.

Widespread in south-western W.A. from Port Gregory to Cape Arid.

Acacia fagonioides and A. amputata have been excluded from the circumscription of A. pulchella given in B.R.Maslin, Nuytsia 1: 397– 407 (1975). Even so it is a very polymorphic species and detailed studies are required to elucidate the perplexing range of variation and to reassess the status of the varieties and informal variants which are recognised here. Putative hybrids occur between some of the varieties.

This species, together with A. amputata , A. epacantha , A. fagonioides , A. guinetii , A. lasiocarpa and A. megacephala constitute the ‘A. pulchella group’, fide P.Guinet et al. , Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 80: 53- 68 (1980).

Four varieties are recognised but not every specimen referable to the species is readily accommodated in these.


1 Flowering peduncles hairy (hairs minute, sometimes sparse); branchlets normally hairy

2 Pinnules glabrous or with a few, minute hairs on margins

var. pulchella

2: Pinnules finely and minutely puberulous over entire upper and lower surfaces

var. reflexa

1: Flowering peduncles glabrous; branchlets glabrous or hairy

3 Branchlets prominently ribbed and normally dark red; spines normally absent or 1 per node; pinnules narrowly oblong, commonly green

var. goadbyi

3: Branchlet characters not combined as above; spines 1 or 2 per node; pinnules obovate to narrowly oblong, green or glaucous to subglaucous

4 Peduncles 1- 4 mm long; bracteoles aristate

var. pulchella

4: Peduncles 7- 15 (- 20) mm long; bracteoles ovate

var. glaberrima


Acacia pulchella R.Br. var. pulchella

Shrub, occasionally prostrate. Branchlets variably hairy, sometimes almost glabrous. Axillary spines usually 2 per node. Petiole 0.5- 1.5 mm long; pinnae 3- 10 mm long; pinnules 4– 8 pairs, oblong to narrowly oblong, 1– 5 mm long, 0.5– 1.5 mm wide, usually dark green above and light green below, glabrous or ciliolate, with midrib and lateral nerves on lower surface often thickened. Peduncles usually 5– 15 mm long and minutely hirsutellous to puberulous; heads usually 24– 40-flowered; bracteoles acute to acuminate. Pods to 4.5 cm long, 3– 4 mm wide, glabrous, infrequently pubescent.

Occurs from near Arrino and Wyalkatchem S to Augusta and near Albany, W.A. Grows mostly in lateritic soil in woodland, often in Jarrah ( Eucalyptus marginata ) and Marri ( Corymbia calophylla ) woodland and forest.

Branchlets on plants from Moora to Cape Naturaliste are usually pilose and hirsutellous admixed; these individuals correspond to the type of A. pulchella var. hispidula . The pilose layer is commonly absent on plants in the Cape Naturaliste- Albany area, furthermore, the indumentum is often appressed and sometimes very sparse; these individuals correspond to the type of A. pulchella . See B.R.Maslin, Nuytsia 1: 398 (1975), for full discussion.

Putative hybrids occur with var. glaberrima and var. reflexa .

The above description does not include the following variants.

Variant 1 has peduncles 1– 4 mm long, appressed-puberulous or glabrous; heads 10- 20-flowered; bracteoles aristate. Its distribution is scattered from near Busselton to Albany, (e.g. 14 km due ESE of Margaret R., B.R.Maslin 6097 , PERTH). Specimens with very short peduncles may superficially resemble A. amputata but are most readily distinguished by their green pinnules, longer glands (1– 2 mm), aristate bracteoles, longitudinal and non-mottled seeds, and usually longer pods (>15 mm long).

Variant 2 has spines 1 per node; pinnules often very shallowly concave and (judging from dry specimens) glaucous to subglaucous. It occurs W of Arrino, Northam- Toodyay area and near Wyalkatchem, (e.g. 1.6 km N of Wyalkatchem towards Koorda, B.R.Maslin 157 , PERTH).

Variant 3 has prostrate plants. It occurs near Denmark, (e.g. Boat Harbour, W of Denmark, K.F.Kenneally 71/281B , PERTH).

Type of accepted name

Mimosa armata . King George III Sound [Albany, W.A.], R. Brown; lecto: BM, lower right hand flowering specimen on sheet titled ‘Iter Australiense, 1802-5’ and bearing [Britten no.] 4322 , fide B.R.Maslin & R.S.Cowan, Nuytsia 10: 116 (1995); iso: K; paralecto: BM, sterile and fruiting specimens mounted on lectotype sheet.


Mimosa pulchella (R.Br.) Poir., Encycl. Meth. (Bot.) Suppl. 5: 530 (1817), nom. inval. (combination not actually made); Racosperma pulchellum (R.Br.) Pedley, Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 92: 240 (1986). Type: as for accepted name.

Acacia pulchella f. aculeata hort. ex Siebert & Voss, Vilm. Blumengartn. 3rd edn, 1: 228 (1896), nom . inval . (description not diagnostic). This name presumably refers to a variant of A. pulchella .

Acacia denudata var. spinosissima Meisn., in J.G.C.Lehmann, Pl. Preiss. 1: 21 (1844); A. pulchella var. denudata f. spinosissima (Meisn.) E.Pritz., Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 35: 310 (1904). Type: cultivated in hort. Baumann, Bollwiller ; ?holo: US (writing on label needs confirming as Meissner’s), see B.R.Maslin & R.S.Cowan, Nuytsia 9: 405 (1994), for note on type.

Acacia pulchella var. hispidula Meisn., in J.G.C.Lehmann, Pl. Preiss. 1: 22 (1844). Type: between Mahogany Ck [31 54’S, 116 08’E] and Halfway House [31 54’S, 116 20’E], Darling Ra., W.A., 13 Sept. 1839, L.Preiss 890 (sphalm. ‘908’); lecto: LD, fide B.R.Maslin & R.S.Cowan, Nuytsia 9: 411 (1994); isolecto: C, GOET, G-DC, L, M, MEL, MO, P, RO (sphalm. ‘594’), STR, TCD (sphalm. ‘594’), W; Swan R., W.A., J.Drummond 309 ; paralecto: BM, G, G-DC, K, MEL, OXF, P, W; Swan R., W.A., J.Drummond 311 ; paralecto: BM, E, G-DC, K, MEL, OXF, P, PERTH, W.

[ Acacia pulchella var. hispidissima auct. non (DC.) Meisn.: C.F.Meissner, in J.G.C.Lehmann, Pl. Preiss. 1: 22 (1844), as to specimens cited, namely, L.Preiss 895 (G-DC, LD, TCD—sphalm. ‘558’), L.Preiss 899 (G-DC, HBG, L, LD, MEL, P, PERTH) and L.Preiss 908 (LD, MEL, PERTH)]

Doubtful names

Acacia bispinosa  Hereman, Acacia lanuginosa Hort. ex Regel, Acacia pulchella var. magna Paxton and Acacia subtilis Hoffmanns.: see Doubtful Names.


B.R.Maslin, Nuytsia 1: 400, fig. 3 (1975).

Representative collections

W.A.: Darling Ra., E.Pritzel 520 (AD, B, E, G-DC, K, L, M, MO, NSW, US, W, Z); 12.3 miles [19.8 km] NNE of Palgarup on South Western Hwy, M.D.Tindale 3914 (NSW, PERTH).


Acacia pulchella var. reflexa Maslin, Nuytsia 1: 401; 404, fig. 4A- C & 483, map 2 (1975)

Branchlets often red, pubescent to puberulous. Axillary spines often few (occasionally entirely absent), 1 or 2 per node. Petiole usually 0.5– 2 mm long; pinnae usually slightly to prominently reflexed and 6– 12 mm long; pinnules usually 4– 8 pairs, oblong to narrowly oblong or oblong-oblanceolate, 2- 5 mm long, usually concolorous, green to grey-green, glaucous on young plants, finely puberulous on both surfaces. Peduncles puberulous; heads usually 30– 40-flowered; bracteoles usually acute to apiculate. Pods puberulous.

Occurs from Badgingarra- Coorow S to Bullsbrook East and near York, W.A. Grows mostly in lateritic soil in Marri ( Corymbia calophylla ) and Wandoo ( Eucalyptus wandoo ) woodland and Jarrah ( E. marginata ) forest, also in loam near swamps.

Most specimens in the Wannamal- Gingin- York area have distinctly acuminate bracteoles and commonly larger than normal heads with up to 60 flowers each. At Boonanarring Brook and near York the leaves are similar to the typical variant but elsewhere they are different, i.e. pinnae 2– 3 mm long and not reflexed, petiole 1– 6 mm long, pinnules 2– 4 pairs and discolorous. It was suggested in B.R.Maslin, loc. cit. , that the latter plants might represent a hybrid between var. reflexa and var. pulchella .

Type of accepted name

7 km N of Bullsbrook East, W.A., 20 July 1973, K.F.Kenneally 882 ; holo: PERTH; iso: B, CANB, K, MEL, NSW, NY, PERTH.


B.R.Maslin, Nuytsia 1: 404, fig. 4A- C (1975).

Representative collections

W.A.: Boonanarring Brook, Gingin, J.J.Alford 238 (PERTH: variant); 25 km N of Bindoon on Great Northern Hwy, B.R.Maslin 670 (NSW, PERTH: variant); 7 km N of Bullsbrook East towards Moora, B.R.Maslin 3984 (PERTH); c. 15 km due WNW of Dandaragan, B.R.Maslin 6032 (PERTH).


Acacia pulchella var. glaberrima Meisn., in J.G.C.Lehmann, Pl. Preiss. 1: 22 (1844)

Branchlets normally finely ribbed, commonly lightly pruinose, glabrous, sometimes hairy. Axillary spines 1 or 2 per node. Leaves variable; petiole <0.5 mm long; pinnae 1- 15 mm long; pinnules 3– 11 pairs, obovate to oblanceolate or narrowly oblong, 1– 6 mm long, glaucous to subglaucous, sometimes pale green (especially on new growth and when in fruit). Peduncles 7– 15 (– 20) mm long, glabrous; bracteoles ovate. Pods 4– 5 (– 7) mm wide.

Occurs from near Jurien S to near Augusta and Ravensthorpe, also Port Gregory- Northampton district (c. 250 km N of Jurien), W.A.; naturalized and weedy in Deep Creek Conservation Park, S.A.  Grows mainly in sandy and lateritic soils in woodland, scrub and heath, also in loamy clay near swamps.

Sympatric with var. pulchella and var. goadbyi in places. Appears occasionally to hybridise with the typical variety, especially between Perth and Dunsborough.

Four variants with some morphological and geographic integrity are discriminated to accommodate the wide range of variation within this taxon. However, due to the complexity of the variation and the presence of intermediates, formal rank has not been attributed to them.

The typical variant (variant 1) has glabrous branchlets. Axillary spines 5– 20 mm long. Leaves variable; pinnae 3– 4 mm long with 3– 4 pairs of obovate to oblanceolate pinnules, but ranging to 4– 10 mm long with 5– 8 pairs of narrowly oblong to oblanceolate pinnules; pinnules mostly 3– 5 mm long. Heads 20– 40-flowered. This variant is widespread from near Jurien to L. Muir; an outlier near Port Gregory has c. 50 flowers per head.

Variant 2 has pilose, villous or pubescent branchlets. Pinnae 6– 15 mm long; pinnules 5– 11 pairs, narrowly oblong to narrowly obovate. It is common on laterite near Dunsborough (indumentum dense; corresponds to the type of A. hispidissima ), infrequent elsewhere (with indumentum usually sparser; seems to correspond to the type of A. grandis ).

Variant 3 has slender spines, 2– 4 mm long; pinnules 1– 2 mm long. Peduncles very slender. Heads 15-flowered. Occurs at Rosa Glen, near Margaret R. Typical var. glaberrima occurs nearby.

Variant 4 has pinnae 1- 2 mm long; pinnules obovate or oblong-obovate, 1- 3 mm long. Occurs at Wannamal and Wongan Hills S to near Williams to Ravensthorpe. Resembling A. amputata in being especially spinose and in having particularly small leaves.

Type of accepted name

Swan R., W.A., L.Preiss 884 ; lecto: NY, fide B.R.Maslin & R.S.Cowan, Nuytsia 9: 410 (1994); isolecto: C, FI, G-DC, GOET, HBG, K, LD, M, MEL, MO, NAP, P, PERTH, STR, W; Swan R., J.Drummond 310 ; paralecto: G, G-DC, K, MEL, OXF, W; L.Preiss 907 ; paralecto, see A. pulchella var. goadbyi (Domin) Maslin.


Acacia hispidissima DC., Prodr . 2: 455 (1825); A. pulchella var. hispidissima (DC.) Meisn., in J.G.C.Lehmann, Pl. Preiss. 1: 22 (1844), as to name only. Type: Nouvelle Hollande, cote occident. (sphalm. ‘orient.’) [near Dunsborough, W.A.], Mus de Paris 1821; holo: G-DC; iso: K ‘Baie du Geographe’, P.

Acacia denudata Lehm. ex Meisn., in J.G.C.Lehmann, Pl. Preiss. 1: 21 (1844); A. denudata Lehm., Del. Sem. Hort. Hamburg 1842: 3 (1842), nom. nud. ; A. pulchella var. denudata (Lehm. ex Meisn.) E.Pritz., Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 35: 310 (1904). Type: Swan R., W.A., J.Drummond 312 ; lecto: BM (sheet labelled herb. Shuttleworth), fide B.R.Maslin & R.S.Cowan, Nuytsia 9: 404 (1994); isolecto: G-DC, K, MEL, P, PERTH, W; near Woodman Point [32 08’S, 115 44’E], W.A., 15 Aug. 1839, L.Preiss 893 ; paralecto: LD, MEL, PERTH, RO, TCD; the last two sphalm. ‘298’.

Acacia denudata var. gracilis Meisn., in J.G.C.Lehmann, Pl. Preiss. 1: 21 (1844). Type: Preston R., W.A., Dec. 1839, L.Preiss 904 ; lecto: LD, fide B.R.Maslin & R.S.Cowan, Nuytsia 9: 405 (1994); isolecto: US.

Acacia grandis hort. ex Henfr., Gard. Mag. Bot. 3: 177, cum icone (1851), the description of A. grandis Anon. in J. Hort. Cottage Gard. ser. 3, 35: 369, fig. 56 (1897) appears to be simply a subsequent use of Henfrey’s name; A. pulchella var. grandis (hort. ex Henfr.) Burtt Davy, Cycl. Amer. Hort. 1: 8 (1900); A. pulchella var. grandis (hort. ex Henfr.) Chopinet, Ann. Inst. Natl Rech. Agron. , ser. B, Ann. Amelior. Pl . 1 (4): 17 (1951), superfluous comb. Type: cultivated in the nursery of Messrs. Henderson, Pine Apple Place [Edgeware Road, London]; n.v.  See also A. pulchella var. hirsuta under Doubtful Names.

? Acacia grandis hort. ex Jacques, J. Soc. Imp. Centr. Hort. 6: 411 (1860), nom. illeg. (later homonym). Type: cultivated in France; n.v.


A.Henfrey, loc. cit. , as A. grandis ; B.R.Maslin, Nuytsia 1: 404, fig. 4D- I (1975).

Representative collections

W.A.: Swan R., J.Drummond 2: 156 (?BM, CGE, E, G-DC, K, LD, NSW, OXF, P, W); 4.8 km E of Donnybrook towards Collie, B.R.Maslin 612 (MEL, NSW, PERTH: hairy branchlet variant) and 613 (MEL, NSW, PERTH); c. 32 km W of Ravensthorpe, S.Paust 706 (PERTH: small leaf variant); Rosa Brook, R.D.Royce 4623 (PERTH: variant with slender peduncles and spines); 23 km from Port Gregory along Yerina Springs road, 15 Aug. 1985, N.Sammy (PERTH).


Acacia pulchella var. goadbyi (Domin) Maslin, Nuytsia 1: 403; 404, fig. 4J- L & 482, map 1 (1975)

Branchlets prominently ribbed, normally red but extremities often yellowish or brown and mottled green between the ribs, usually glabrous. Axillary spines few or absent, 1 (or 2) per node. Pinnae usually 5- 12 mm long; pinnules conduplicate and imbricate when dry, 4- 9 pairs, narrowly oblong, 2- 5 mm long, usually green. Peduncles glabrous. Pods 3 mm wide.

Occurs from Wannamal S to Albany and E to Cape Arid, with one collection from near Port Gregory (c. 330 km N of Wannamal), W.A. Grows in a variety of soils, often in low-lying areas near watercourses, usually in woodland, shrubland and forest.

Specimens with smaller than normal leaves (pinnae 2- 5 mm long) are scattered in southern areas, with those from the Fitzgerald R. Natl Park having glaucous pinnules and some from the Stirling Ra. Natl Park having very short peduncles (2- 5 mm long). Pubescent individuals are rare, sometimes occurring sympatrically with the normal form. Likewise, specimens with two spines per node are rare. Sometimes difficult to distinguish from var. glaberrima with which it is occasionally sympatric (e.g. near Wannamal).

Type of accepted name

Albany, W.A., B.J.Goadby , comm. Miss Morgan, Feb. 1901; holo: K.


Acacia goadbyi Domin, Vestn. Kral. Ceske Spolecn. Nauk, Tr. Mat.-Prir. 2: 47 (1923). Type: as for accepted name.

Acacia pulchella var. glaberrima Meisn., in J.G.C.Lehmann, Pl. Preiss. 1: 22 (1844) p.p. , not as to lectotype, as to L.Preiss 907 (LD), fide B.R.Maslin & R.S.Cowan, Nuytsia 9: 411 (1994).


B.R.Maslin, Nuytsia 1: 404, fig. 4J- L (1975).

Representative collections

W.A.: 22.5 km NE of Fitzgerald R. mouth, K.M.Allan 349 (AD, K, PERTH); Cape Arid Natl Park, J.W.Green 5146 (CANB, PERTH): near Bluff Knoll, Stirling Ra., G.J.Keighery 3435 (PERTH); 0.8 km SW of Kalgan R. bridge on Albany-Jerramungup road, B.R.Maslin 1083 (AD, NSW, PERTH); 21.5 km from Northampton towards Port Gregory, B.R.Maslin 3118 (PERTH).


WATTLE Acacias of Australia CD-ROM graphic

The information presented here originally appeared on the WATTLE CD-ROM which was jointly published by the Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra, and the Department of Parks and Wildlife, Perth; it was produced by CSIRO Publishing from where it is available for purchase. The WATTLE custodians are thanked for allowing us to post this information here.

Page last updated: Thursday 22 June 2023