Broadway Arboretum

Species Information Page

Acacia cyclops Coastal Wattle


Location in Arboretum: Mallee Heath
No on Map: MH02



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  • Coastal Wattle Grows along the coast from Geraldton south to and beyond the South Australian border.  Its distribution is discontinuous within its range (1).
  • The species name cyclops is based on the curly seed pods.
  • Acacia cyclops is also known as Red-eyed wattle which refers to the appearance of the pods when they first open in late spring: each shiny black seed is encircled by a thick orange-red stalk, resembling a bloodshot eye (2).
  • Its flower heads are bright yellow spherical clusters. Very few flower heads are produced at a time, but flowering occurs over a long period, from early spring to late summer. This is unusual for Acacia species, which normally flower in one brief but impressive display (2).
  • The following information comes from

    • Red-eyed wattle is easily recognized by its old, twisted seed-pods, which remain on the plant for two or three years.
    • The bright colour of the stalks is designed to attract birds, and species such as wattlebirds, singing honeyeaters, silvereyes and ringneck parrots feast on the seeds, as do emus, if they are present. The seed-stalks are digested but the seeds are too hard, and pass through the bird in its droppings. Since the birds often fly some distance, this is an effective way of dispersing the seeds. Many of the seeds are deposited below where the birds roost for the night, such as in a tuart tree. Thus often one will find two or three, or sometimes more, red-eyed wattles growing near the base of a tuart.
    • Red-eyed wattle has a rich associated fauna, especially of insects and other invertebrates. Here are just a few examples. In the stems of red-eyed wattle tunnel the larvae of various moths and beetles, including those of large cossid moths and the ant-longicorn, a small beetle that mimics an ant. Other insects, such as native bees, later nest in the abandoned holes.  The tiny larvae of a small butterfly, the two-spotted line-blue, feed on the flower-buds, flowers and young pods. As well as the birds already mentioned, various insects eat the seed and possibly the seed stalks. One is a bug brightly marked with a red circle enclosing a black patch on its abdomen,  resembling the wattle seed and its surrounding stalk (see photo). Ants gather any seed-stalks they find on the ground, storing them, often with the seeds attached, in their nests.
    • Collectively, the various insects reduce the wattle’s vigour and production of seed, and may shorten its life. This is important in preventing Red-eyed wattle from becoming the rampant weed that it became in South Africa.
    • A study in South Africa found “Germination of Acacia cyclops seeds was enhanced as a result of passage through the gut of a bird” (3)
    • Grows as a dense, dome shaped shrub; this helps protect against salt spray, sand-blast and erosion of soil at the roots. When sheltered from the wind, it tends to grow as a small tree, up to seven metres high.
    • Like many other Acacia species, red-eyed wattle has phyllodes rather than true leaves. The phyllodes range from four to eight centimetres long, and from six to twelve millimetres wide.