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Acacia verticillata

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Acacia verticillata (L’Hr.) Willd., Sp. Pl . 4: 1049 (1806)

Prickly Moses

Spreading shrub or erect tree to 10 m high. Stipules, if present, setaceous, 0.5–2 mm long. Phyllodes fascicled or whorled, alternate, sessile, readily disarticulating, acicular-quadrangular, linear or lanceolate, 5–25 mm long, 0.2–7 mm wide, pungent, rigid, mostly glabrous, with 1 vein, rarely more; gland small. Inflorescences with peduncles 2–15 mm long, glabrous or pubescent; spikes to 4.5 cm long or heads ovoid or spherical; bracteoles ovate-navicular, sometimes sharply pointed, 1–3 mm long, minutely ciliate below. Flowers usually densely packed, 4-merous; sepals united. Pods linear, compressed, hardly constricted between seeds, 2–8 cm long, 3–5 mm wide, with thin valves. Seeds elliptic, c. 3–4 mm long; funicle filamentous for c. 2 mm and then folded and thickened into an oblique, turbinate aril.

Widespread in saline and submontane tracts (and often riparian) ranging from Gulf St Vincent in S.A. through south-eastern S.A. and southern and eastern Vic. and far south-eastern N.S.W. and Tas. where it occurs on the islands of Bass Strait, central, southern and eastern Tas. and with isolated populations on the W coast. Usually flowers late July–Dec. and fruits Nov.–Jan., rarely later.

See A. axillaris, A. oxycedrus , A. rhigiophylla and A. riceana . Recent serological evidence suggest a relationship between A. genistifolia and A. verticillata , see P.Brain & B.R.Maslin (1996), Biochem. Syst. & Ecol. 24(5): 379–392.

Four subspecies are here recognised within this very complex taxon and there seem to be several distinct populations within each of them. Some of these are sympatric and occasionally intergrade with one another.


1 Most phyllodes fascicled or alternate; flowers in globular or ovoid heads, rarely in spikes

subsp. ovoidea

1: All phyllodes in distinct whorls, rarely otherwise; flowers always in distinct spikes

2 Phyllodes acicular and needle-like, less than 12 mm long and less than 0.5 mm wide

subsp. cephalantha

2: Phyllodes distinctly flattened vertically, often more than 12 mm long and more than 0.5 mm wide

3 Phyllodes more than 3 mm wide

subsp. ruscifolia

3: Phyllodes less than 3 mm wide

subsp. verticillata


Acacia verticillata (L.Har.) Willd. subsp. verticillata

Erect shrub or small tree, 2–5 m high. Phyllodes commonly whorled, but sometimes fascicled or very occasionally alternate, linear, narrow-lanceolate or occasionally quadrangular, commonly narrowing gradually into a sharp point. Flowers always in cylindrical spikes.

Widespread from far south-eastern N.S.W. through southern Vic. to central, eastern and southern Tas. including islands of Bass Strait, mostly in damp places.

A variant (MEL) recorded from Jacksons Ck near Sydenham on the north-western outskirts of Melbourne, and represented by a specimen presumably collected by P.R.H.St John, 11 Oct. 1906, warrants further investigation. It has verticillate and erect rather than spreading phyllodes up to 25 mm long and a spicate inflorescence. It appears to be very localised and is here included in this subspecies. Similar material (CANB) has been recorded from near Anakie Junction in the Brisbane Ranges between Ballan and Geelong in Vic.

Type of accepted name

Adventure Bay, [Tas.], Jan. 1777, D.Nelson s.n. ; holo: BM.


Mimosa verticillata L’Hr., Sert. Angl. 30 (1789); Acacia verticillata var. angusta DC., Prodr. 2: 453 (1825), nom. illeg. ; Racosperma verticillatum (L’Hnr.) Mart., Hort. Reg. Monac. 188 (1829); Phyllodoce verticillata (L’Hr.) Link, Handbuch 2: 133 (1831). Type: as for accepted name.

Acacia verticillata var. latifolia Benth., Linnaea 26: 611 (1825), nom. illeg. , non DC. (1825); Racosperma verticillatum var. verticillatum , fide L.Pedley, Austrobaileya 2: 358 (1987); R. verticillatum var. latifolium Pedley, Austrobaileya 2: 358 (1987), non DC. (1825). . Type: as for accepted name.

Acacia verticillata var. glabra DC., Prodr. 2: 453 (1825). Type: a specimen in the Boursalt gardens collected in 1818; holo: G-DC n.v. , PERTH (Photo seen).

Doubtful names

Acacia verticillata var. robusta Hort. ex L.Neumann and var. ulicina Sal. ex L.Neumann: see Doubtful Names.


M.H.Simmons, Acacias Australia 2: fig.100 (1988); T.Tame, Acacias SE Australia 42, figs a–d (1992), as A. verticillata subsp. verticillata and pl. 18a (1992), as A. verticillata var. verticillata ; D.J.E.Whibley & D.E.Symon, Acacias S. Australia 2nd edn, fig. 95 (1992).

Representative collections

N.S.W.: 17.7 km W of Green Cape Lighthouse, R.Coveny 2946 (MEL, NSW); track to Womboyne L., 9 Oct. 1961, M.E.Phillips s.n. (CANB). Vic.: Mafeking, The Grampians, 25 Oct. 1963, M.E.Phillips s.n. (CANB). Tas.: Pats R., Flinders Is., J.S.Whinray 2151 (MEL); Adventure Bay, Bruny Is., 30 Aug. 1945, W.M.Curtis s.n. (HO).


Acacia verticillata subsp. ruscifolia (A.Cunn. ex G.Don) Court (ms), to be published in Appendix to Fl. Australia vol. 11 (2001)

Spreading or erect shrub or small tree, 1–10 m high. Phyllodes usually distinctly whorled, linear-lanceolate to ovate, 10–20 mm long, 3–6 mm wide, pungent pointed. Flowers crowded into dense spikes 2–3 cm long.

Confined principally to the W coast of Tas. with isolated occurrences on Wilsons Promontory and Sunday Is. in Vic.

The record of this subspecies for Vic. is based on specimens collected on Wilsons Promontory which differ significantly from Tasmanian material by having narrower phyllodes barely 3 mm wide and of a darker colour. This material seems better placed under the subsp. ruscifolia for the present.

Type of accepted name

New Holland [Australia], A.Cunningham s.n. , without date; n.v.


Acacia ruscifolia A.Cunn. ex G.Don, Gen. Hist. 2: 407 (1832); A. verticillata var. latifolia Benth., Linnaea 26: 611 (1855), nom. illeg. , non DC. (1825); Racosperma verticillatum var. latifolium Pedley, Austrobaileya 2: 358 (1987), nom. inval. Type: as for accepted name.

Acacia ruscifolia A.Cunn., Bot. Mag. 59: t. 3195 (1932). Type: cultivated in Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, from seed from Macquarie Harbour, Van Diemens Land [Tas.], Jan. 1819, A.Cunningham s.n. ; n.v.

Acacia moesta Lindl., Edward’s Bot. Reg. 1846: t. 67 (1846). Type: lecto, fide A.B.Court, to be published in Appendix to Fl. Australia vol. 11 (2001).


L.F.Costermans, Native Trees Shrubs SE Australia 302, fig. a; M.H.Simmons, Acacias Australia 2: 209b, upper figure (1988); T.Tame, Acacias SE Australia pl. 18b (1992), as A. verticillata var. latifolia .

Representative collections

Vic.: Sealers Cove, Wilsons Promontory, 17 Oct. 1933, J.H.Willis s.n. (MEL). Tas.: summit of Strzelecki Peaks, Flinders Is., B.C.Crisp 464 (CANB, HO); Blow Hole, Eaglehawk Neck, 2 Feb. 1962, M.E.Phillips s.n. (CANB).


Acacia verticillata subsp. cephalantha (F.Muell.) Court (ms), to be published in Appendix to Fl. Australia vol. 11 (2001)

Usually an erect or spreading shrub or small tree, 2–10 m high. Branches mostly spreading. Phyllodes disarticulating very easily from stems, acicular-quadrangular, rarely flattened, very sharply pointed. Flowers always in cylindrical spikes.

Confined to woodlands and forests of central Vic. and often riparian.

Type of accepted name

Yarra R., Sept. 1852, F.Mueller 16 ; lecto: MEL, fide A.B.Court, to be published in Appendix to Fl. Australia vol. 11 (2001).


Acacia verticillata var. cephalantha F.Muell., J. Proc. Linn. Soc., Bot. 3: 121 (1859). Type: as for accepted name.

Representative collections

Vic.: Lerderderg Gorge, R.Filson 5053 (MEL); Gordons Bridge, c. 36 km S of Yea, R.A.Kilgour 61 (CANB); 9.5 km from Noojee towards Powelltown, E.M.Canning 1370A (CANB).


Acacia verticillata subsp. ovoidea (Benth.) Court (ms), to be published in Appendix to Fl. Australia vol. 11 (2001)

Intricate, spreading, scandent or prostrate shrub, 1–2 m high, 3–4 m wide. Branches often wiry. Phyllodes alternate or fascicled, rarely whorled, often flattened. Flowers in sessile or pedunculate spikes, with ovoid or spherical heads.

Widespread in damp places in heathlands and woodlands ranging from Mt Remarkable, Kangaroo Is., southern Mt Lofty Ranges and the far SE in S.A., along the southern coastal regions of Vic. to Wilsons Promontory and E of Orbost with occurrences in The Grampians and extending to Tas. where it is locally common in coastal tracts in the N and E.

Easily distinguished from closely related species by its short, pungent, verticillate or fascicled phyllodes, and its densely packed flower-spikes.

Type of accepted name

Near the junction of the Steep Bank R. and the Glenelg R. in south-western Vic., 1836, Mitchell 262 ; lecto: K n.v. , fide A.B.Court, to be published in Appendix to Fl. Australia vol. 11 (2001); isolecto: MEL; Circular Head, Tas., 1842, R.C.Gunn 676 ; paralecto: HO; Circular Head, Tas., 1 Sept. 1839, R.C.Gunn s.n. ; paralecto: NSW.


Acacia ovoidea Benth., London J. Bot. 1: 339 (1842). A. verticillata var. ovoidea (Benth.) Benth., Fl. Austral. 2: 335 (1864). Type: as for accepted name.


D.J.E.Whibley, Acacias S. Australia 193 (1980), as A. verticillata ; D.J.E.Whibley in J.P.Jessop & H.R.Toelken (eds), Fl. S. Australia 2: fig. 300A (1986), as A. verticillata ; M.H.Simmons, Acacias Australia 2: 209, fig. a (1988); T.Tame, Acacias SE Australia 42, fig. e (1992).

Representative collections

S.A.: Deep Ck, Fleurieu Penin., M.Fagg 798 (CANB); 16 km W of Naracoorte, R.Filson 3042 (MEL). Vic.: Port Campbell Natl Park, A.C.Beauglehole 21025 & E.W.Finck (MEL); Skye near Frankston, P.R.H.St John 254 (MEL). Tas.: Bridport, Aug. 1953, W.M.Curtis s.n. (HO); Circular Head, R.C.Gunn 676/1842 (HO) and 1 Sept. 1839 (NSW) (syntypes).


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