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Electronic Flora of South Australia species Fact Sheet

Family: Fabaceae
Acacia farnesiana


Citation: C. L. Willdenow, Sp. Plant. ed. 4, 4:1083 (1806). Mimosa farnesiana L., Sp. Plant. ed. 1:521 (1753).

Derivation: farnesiana—named after the Farnese Gardens in Rome where it was first cultivated.

Synonymy: Vachellia farnesiana (L.)Wight & Arn Prod. Fl. Penin.Ind. Orient. 272 (1834); A. lenticellata F. Muell., J. Proc. Linn. Soc. Bot. 3:147 (1859).

Common name: sweet acacia, cassie

Low, much-branched, thorny shrubs 2-7 m high rarely growing into a small tree; branchlets grey to reddish-brown, marked with numerous lenticels; stipules rigid, straight, prominent, spinescent, in pairs, 1-3 cm long.

Leaves bipinnate; petiole pubescent with a small gland; rachis pubescent usually with a gland below the junction of each pinnae pair; pinnae 2-6 pairs; pinnules 10-21 pairs, 3-8 mm long, 1-2 mm broad, mid-green, glabrous, a mid vein visible on the under surface with a few obscure lateral veins, apex obtuse or shortly acute.

Inflorescences simple, 1-3 per axil; flower-heads bright yellow, 50-60-flowered, sweetly scented; peduncles pubescent, 15-20 mm long; flowers 5-merous.

Legumes 4-7 cm long, 9-12 mm broad, straight or curved, turgid, subterete, thick, woody, striate, dark brown to blackish, indehiscent. Seeds oblique in legume, ellipsoid and surrounded by a pithy substance.

Distribution:  A few scattered occurrences in the Lake Eyre region: near Oodnadatta, Dalhousie Springs, Innamincka, Cordillo Downs, Lake Blanche and into the Eastern region near north Mulga Homestead. Soils; mainly crusty and neutral red duplex. Rainfall 125-150 mm. Also W.Aust., N.T., Qld and N.S.W. This species is found in subtropical and tropical America, Africa and Asia, widely introduced in the tropics and often becoming naturalised. It is not certain whether it is indigenous to Australia, or was introduced before white settlement.

Flowering time: Irregular periods throughout the year, mainly May — October.

SA Distribution Map based
on current data relating to
specimens held in the
State Herbarium of South Australia

Biology: No text

Taxonomic notes: Acacia farnesiana and its close allies in Central America are discussed by Clarke et al. (1989). Keys to related species and maps of their distribution are given. It is believed that A. farnesiana originated in this area and was transported early to the Old World. In the paper there is no discussion of Old World representatives. Two varieties are considered, var. farnesiana which is the most widespread and with which the South Australian material agrees. The second is var. guanacastensis which is more southern in its distribution, has pubescent leaflets, more numerous pinnae and leaflets and has not been recognised in Australia.

The typification of A. farnesiana is discussed in detail by Ross (1975b). As no holotype could be located Ross has selected a plate published by Aldinus in 1625 as the lectotype.

The anatomy and morphology of the pods of South African Acacia was published by Robbertse (1975). These species are not closely related to Australian species except that we have A. farnesiana in common (it is probably a relatively late introduction to both sites) and A. nilotica which is sparsely naturalised in the far north-east of South Australia. A similar survey of pods of Australian species does not appear to have been done.

The only mistletoes recorded on A. farnesiana in the State Herbarium are two specimens of Lysiana exocarpi, harlequin mistletoe which has a wide host range and infests at least 18 Acacia spp.

The green pods and seeds of A. farnesiana are reported by Isaacs (1987) to be used by the Aborigines for food.

A. farnesiana called Cassie is grown in the south of France and in Syria to provide farnesol and other aromatic substances for perfumery, Poucher (1984). 'The product has a most exquisite odour and is used in fine violet perfumes and other bouquets. The odour of the fresh, golden, globular flowers recalls both violet and orange blossom simultaneously' About 250 kilos of flowers produce 1 kilo of 'concrete' which in turn yields 300 grams of 'absolute'.

A. farnesiana was described as weedy in Queensland, Kleinschmidt and Johnson (1977) where it was described and illustrated. The young foliage is considered palatable.

Cultivation: Widely cultivated for its decorative, qualities and the essential oil obtained from its flowers, used in making perfume in Mediterranean countries. Moderate to fast growth rate.

Author: Not yet available


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