Wattle flower – this one had a delicate perfume

Today, 1st September is National Wattle Day in Australia, as well as the first day of spring.  When the Wattle starts to flower we know spring is just around the corner.

There are about 985 different Wattle (Acacia) species in Australia with around 1,380 species worldwide. It is a very useful tree & has a very long history of being used by the indigenous Australians who used all parts of the Wattle.  We only know some of the ways the Australian Aboriginals used Wattle as much of it is passed down orally & is tribal knowledge.

The following are just some of the ways the Australian Aboriginals used Wattle.

Wattle has a significant role in Bush Medicine.  Various parts of Wattle tree were used to make cough medicine & inhalations to treat colds & flu. It was made into poultices to treat headache & backache, preparations to relieve itchy skin, ointments to treat boils & wounds & as an eye wash.  Wattle was also used to treat scabies & to remove warts.  Both the bark & roots of certain Wattles were made into bandages & to make a splint for broken bones.  Wattle smoke was used rituals & for good health.

Bush medicine is a specialized skill.  There are thousands of Wattle species, & not all are used for the same thing. Some Wattle are able to be ingested, while others are toxic.     This is not something you just go to the nearest Wattle tree, pick & prepare.

Wattle seed is high in both protein & carbohydrates.  The gum, seeds & roots were prepared for eating, either as a raw paste or roasted as a damper.  Wattle gum was eaten as a snack & made into a sweet drink when dissolved in water with nectar.

Wood from Wattle was made into a range of weapons; boomerangs, spear throwers, spear shafts & heads & shields.  Wattle doesn’t split, so made good digging sticks.  Gum from the Wattle was used to make glue to repair tools & to make traps waterproof.   Thin, pliable green stems were used to collect honey from beehives.

Some Wattle was used to poison fish in small billabongs.  The inner bark of some Wattles was perfect for making string & rope. These were also used in head decorations, ceremonial items & to make sandals. Bark was also used to create fine string for fishing nets & bags.

Wattle was used to make clap sticks, a traditional instrument. Dye was also made from Wattle. The leaves & pods produce a soapy lather & this was used for washing.

Wattle was prized as firewood as it is slow burning.  Wattle ash was mixed with the young leaves & stalks of native plants that contained nicotine & this was made into chewing tobacco.  Wattle was also used as a seasonal indicator telling the people when food was available in an area.

It’s an amazing plant as well as being beautiful, especially when in flower.  Unfortunately, Wattles trees are short-lived, but they do grow & spread easily & many species tolerate dry conditions. The Wattle species Acacia pycnantha is the floral emblem of Australia & features on the coat-of-arms.

I wrote about the history of National Wattle Day last year with a range of different facts about this wonderful plant.  http://bit.ly/UfzUVL

If you are interested in making Wattle perfume from a simple recipe published in 1896 see – http://bit.ly/OBaSwr

Wattle flower – this one had a much stronger perfume than the one above

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