Coastal Wattle (Acacia sophorae)
Size: Shrub to 4m high and wide.
Description: Rambling dense shrub with bright yellow cylindrical flower heads, its trunk is found growing along the ground (A. longifolia is more erect and compact). There are over 1000 acacia species in Australia.
Habitat: Widespread in coastal areas, found in heaths open forests, along headlands and sand dunes.
Foliage: Leaves/Phyllodes (resemble and perform same function as leaves) are oblong to elliptic, blunt tipped and very flat like other wattle leaves (5-10cm x 2cm). Alternate, dull dark green above, paler underside. 2-5 prominent longitudinal veins clearly visible.
Flowers: In cylindrical spikes to 30mm, fluffy and golden yellow. 2-3 flower spikes per leaf axil. Flowers late winter to early spring.
Fruit/seeds: Green legumes elongated and bean like (12cm x 5mm), brown when mature with 6-12 black glossy seeds per mature pod, Pods are straight as they develop but curl up as they mature and dry (the seedpods of A. longifolia do not curl when mature).
Distribution: South-eastern coastal areas NSW, VIC, SA and TAS
Uses: Seed pods of A. sophorae and A. suavolens are are harvested green and must be steamed whole to destroy protease inhibitors and toxins. The protein rich green seeds are then picked out and eaten (only eat the seeds). Collect mature pods when they are starting to open and curl (summer) then sift and winnow the dry black seeds from the husks, these then must be roasted and ground to the desired coarseness. Acacia seeds are high in protein, fat, carbohydrates, iron and zinc and have an energy value of over 1500kj per 100g.
Some texts say that the seed pods of A. longifolia are not edible. Edible sticky gum exuding on trunk and branches can be eaten raw or soaked in water until it turns to jelly (pale coloured resin tastes better than darker resin). The leaves of A. suavolens (sweet wattle) were used as tea by the early settlers – liquid made from the bark was used to tan skins and fishing nets. Bark decoction used to treat ulcers and boils. Edible grubs found in the roots, trunk and galls of many acacia species. Crushed leaves and bark were traditionally used as a fish poison. Roots are a good source of freshwater when cut and upended. A. sophorae is also used for beach stabilisation.