Cultivation of Wattles.

(a.) Soil.

THERE IS a consensus of opinion that wattles will grow on the poorest soil, and thus it is that land can be utilized in this industry when it can scarcely be put under any other cultivation, and where not even grass grows. At the same time, bark richer in tannic acid and maturing earlier, may be obtained from trees growing on richer soil.

“The bark obtained from trees growing on limestonenote formations is greatly inferior in tannin to that of trees grown on any other formation.”

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(Report of Wattle-bark Board, Melbourne, 1878.) This is the only observation of the kind with which I am acquainted, and more are required; nevertheless, I do not hesitate to recommend farmers to utilize any poor land they may have for wattle culture.

“Sandy soil is best, lying upon a clay subsoil.………… I do not think that taking a crop of wattles off land renders it useless for other crops; but I consider it an advantage rather than otherwise, from the deposit of leaves, which manures the land for other crops. There is nothing to prevent one crop of wattles following another immediately; you may take three or four off without interfering with the productiveness of the soil.” (J. E. Brown.)

In preparing the land, if it be virgin soil, unencumbered with scrub and of a light nature, breaking up of the surface, sowing the seeds, and harrowing is all that is necessary. If the land be covered with scrub or other vegetation these should be cut down, burnt, and the land prepared in the usual way.

It must not be understood that any careless kind of cultivation will do for wattles, although when once started, they will thrive with scarcely any attention, but like other crops, the better the system of cultivation adopted, the better the yield and therefore the greater the profit.

(b.) Moisture.

Wattles like a moderate amount of moisture, say from 18 to 20 inches. (F. Abbott.) Mr. J. E. Brown has grown wattles successfully with 10 inches of rainfall, but ordinary cultivators will not usually succeed with less than 16 to 20 inches per annum.

On the other hand, it is not good for wattle-trees to have an unlimited supply of water, as they then tend to throw out too much leaf, and the bark becomes flabby and deficient in tannic acid.

(c.) Sowing and Germination of the Seed.

The outer covering of the seed is of great hardness, and under ordinary circumstances it will remain in the ground for many years before germination.

I am indebted to Mr. William Neilley, of Sydney, for what appears to be a well-authenticated instance of wattle seed remaining dormant in the ground for over 37 years. An allotment of land in the town of Bega, purchased from Mr. Spence, formerly had wattles on it, but the trees and all wattles near had long since been destroyed. After a lapse of 37 years Mr. Neilley had the land ploughed, and wattles sprang up thickly when the ground was trenched.

Bush-fires, however, usually hasten matters; and it is well known that perfect forests of young wattles spring up in many places after these occurrences. The operations of nature are therefore assisted in practice by means of heat, and this heat may be either dry or moist. For the first, Mr. J. E. Brown recommends a quantity of brushwood to be burnt down to the condition of expiring embers. “In this residuum of the fire the seed is

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placed, and mixed up with the ashes and charred coals, and the whole is then allowed to remain until cooled down. The seed is now ready for sowing. If the intention be to sow it singly, by dibbling or in some other way, it will have to be cleaned and separated from the residue of the fire by riddling, or by the aid of an ordinary grain-winnower. If, however, the seed is to be sown broadcast, it will be sufficient if the embers are raked off the heap, and the remainder, containing both ash and seed, stored ready for sowing. The advantage claimed for this method of preparation is that the seed can be sown either broadcast upon the ground without covering, or dibbled in the soil in the ordinary way, at any season of the year, and especially before the winter rains set in.” Care will, of course, require to be exercised to prevent loss by over-burning. A frying-pannote is used by some people for roasting wattle seeds.

Secondly, the method of treatment by boiling, or hot water. Mr. Brown has recommended that the seed be placed in a vessel, water almost boiling poured upon it, and left to soak for one or two days; the seed is then taken out and kept damp in a bag until swelling takes place. “The only drawback to this system is that, when sown, the seed must of necessity be covered with soil, and that the operation be carried out in the winter season only. Unless the seed be covered as it is put out, so as to keep up the necessary supply of moisture to complete germination, a change of dry weather would undoubtedly result in its entire loss.” Nevertheless, this is the method which Mr. Brown recommends growers, especially beginners, to adopt.

Professor Tate, who, in addition to his scientific knowledge, has had much practical experience in wattle-planting, has instituted a series of experiments upon the temperature to which wattle seed may be exposed in assisting it to germinate. The experiments are useful, in that they enable the operation of treatment with hot water to be conducted with greater confidence. In my own case I have been afraid to destroy the vitality of seed by the application of too high a temperature, but Professor Tate shows that the seeds may be boiled for several minutes without injury, though there is no advantage in heating the water above 150°F. I quote his important experiments from Mr. Brown's Report:—

Experiment 1. Acacia pycnantha.—Equal parcels of seeds saturated with water at the following degrees of temperature:—


170° The seeds germinated in about equal proportions at the end of three weeks.




Experiment 2. Acacia decurrens (A. decurrens var. mollis = A. mollissima, is here meant.—J.H.M.)—Seed saturated with boiling water, and kept in wet sand in a warm place, germinated at end of two weeks.

Experiment 3. Acacia saligna.—Seed saturated with water at 212°, July 22nd; seeds began to burst, July 29th.

Experiment 4. Acacia pycnantha.

July 22nd, boiled for 1 minute.

July 22nd, boiled for 3 minutes. All the seeds germinated August 9th.

July 22nd, boiled for 5 minutes.

July 22nd, boiled for 7 minutes.

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The importance of care in the selection of seeds can hardly be over-estimated. They should be gathered from thoroughly healthy trees, for it is false economy to use any but the best procurable.

Mr. G. S. Perrin, State Conservator of Forests, Victoria, recommends half a bushel of sand to be mixed with each pound of seed sown, and after treating the seed with hot water, as before described, to broadcast thoroughly, as in sowing wheat. He justly remarks that, if done with discretion, much after-labour will be saved in the thinning process.

Mr. F. Abbott recommends that the seed be soaked and simply sown broadcast on ploughed ground.

In soaking seed (as directed) for sowing, sufficient only should be prepared for one day's sowing at a time. Where seed has been soaked and sown, it must be covered immediately with soil, say by means of light harrows.

Mr. J. E. Brown advocates the raising of wattles in bamboos. The raising of trees by this means is so common in India, has been so successfully carried out in South Australia,note by Mr. Brown, and is, withal so simple, that I give a brief account of the method here, compiled from that gentleman's evidence before the Victorian Royal Commission on Vegetable Products, and published in the Fourth Progress Report. A wattle planter in New South Wales substitutes little twists of brown paper for the “bamboos,” and doubtless other simple expedients are in use.

Method of Tree-propagation by means of “bamboos.”—In India the true bamboo is used because it is abundant; in South Australia a large South European reednote (Arundo Donax, Linn.), which locally bears the name of “bamboo,” is used instead. The reed is cut to 4 inches in length, by means of a small circular saw driven by hand or water-power. Endeavours are made not to include joints in the pieces cut, but if one should occur it is bored through; the pieces are packed together upright, filled with soil, the seed put in, and allowed to remain there till the planting season. The seedling is transplanted in the “bamboo” just as it stands, and in cases where the bamboo is not sufficiently rotted, they are split up, in order to allow the roots to expand. Five hundred trees thus start their careers, and can be transported in one small box—a brandy case for instance.

In planting with wattles that wretched desert country near the Melbourne-Adelaide Railway, from Bordertown to Murray Bridge (hitherto considered useless for any purpose), Mr. J. E. Brown, in giving evidence before the above mentioned Commission, stated his intention simply to roll the scrub down, scatter the seed, and then set fire to the scrub. This rolling is effected by making a team of bullocks draw an old boiler; the larger saplings are previously cut with an axe.

“Five years ago I put in 50 acres of wattles in a very sandy portion of Mount Burr Forest, and next year I intend stripping it, and I have no doubt I shall receive 5 tons per acre from it. The country is very sandy—almost pure sand—the seed was sown broadcast, a flock of sheep run over it to trample it in, and the crop was so thick that we have had to thin it twice.”—(J. E. Brown).

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Mr. A. L. Thrupp, of Woodside, South Australia, is in timbered country opposed to the felling of the timber (non-wattle), as he is of opinion that the trees if ringed, form, even in their dead state, a protection of no mean value against frost and high winds for the young wattle plants.

Seed is preferably sown immediately the winter season has set in.

Mr. F. Krichauff, of South Australia, caused wattle seeds to be sown upon some sandy land in the Bugle Ranges during May and August. Those sown in August made much greater progress than those sown in May. The seeds were sown upon a young barley crop, and then trodden in by sheep.—(Journal of S. A. Bureau of Agriculture, Nov. 1889.)

Following are extracts from a leaflet, giving a few simple directions in regard to wattle cultivation, which has been issued by the Superintendent of Technical Education, under the direction of the Minister of Public Instruction. Some of the points have already been touched upon:—

Nursery.—If there be only a small area to be planted with wattles it is best to raise seedlings in a nursery. Whilst young they can be easier looked after and protected. Wattles will not stand transplanting at every season of the year with any degree of success; therefore they should be planted in small flower-pots or bamboos, in which they can be readily taken to the open ground. If grown in flower-pots, three or four seeds in each will be sufficient. When the plants are up, weed out all but the strongest one. After they are a few weeks old the pots will be found to be full of root; they should then be removed to their permanent home. To take them out of the pots turn them upside down, and by placing a finger in the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot the plant with its roots can be easily taken out, and will suffer nothing by removal. In the State Nursery at Gosford the seeds are sown in boxes containing peaty loam, mixed with clean, sharp sand, the soil being kept always moist. When the seedlings are sufficiently established they are transferred to the open ground.

To sow broadcast or in drills.—If the seeds have been assisted in their germination by means of hot ashes, rake or sift out the larger coals and sow the ashes with the seeds. If the germination has been commenced by the hot water process, mix the seed thoroughly with dry ashes or sand—this will prevent the seeds from sticking together—then sow broadcast or in drills in the usual way. If the seeds are to be dibbled they must be freed from the ashes. Whichever method be adopted for sowing, the seed should be well covered, and in the case of those that have been soaked in water this is essential, for a few hot and dry days would effectually check all further growth. Three or four seeds at about three feet apart is the distance required; this will allow for thinning.

“Do not cover the seeds too deeply; about an inch underground will be ample.

“Sow sparingly; this will save a lot of thinning afterwards.”

(d.) Commerce in Wattle-Seed.

It goes without saying that in order to assist the development of wattle cultivation, it is necessary that there must be increased facilities in New South Wales for procuring seed. I have already alluded to the fact that it would be false economy to allow considerations of price to stand in the way

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of obtaining the best seed procurable, for the ordinary cultivator only requires a pound or two, and the outside cost will only be a few shillings. Is the success of a plantation, perhaps involving an interest of hundreds of pounds, to be jeopardized through haggling with a seedsman over a few paltry shillings?

At present of course our seedsmen must obtain their supply of Acacia pycnantha seed from South Australia, and the mollissima seed from, perhaps, Tasmania and Victoria (though not necessarily, as it flourishes in our own Colony), while the decurrens seed, of excellent quality, may be obtained from within our own territory. It will be to the interests of Sydney and other seedsmen to establish local agents willing to push wattle-seed in districts already found suitable, or supposed to be so, for any or all of the species recommended for cultivation; and I hope it is unnecessary to insist on the common-sense advice of noting approximately the localities from which seed is collected, in order to prevent it being sent to districts totally different in climatic conditions. The best wattles are found growing under a great variety of circumstances, so there is no necessity to handicap the cultivation by ignoring local conditions.

(e.) Pruning and Thinning.

Wattle-trees are sometimes recommended to be pruned. “The advantages of this are larger dimensions of individual trees, and hence more bark in proportion; cleaner stems, easier stripping at less expense, less liability to disease, and quicker returns, because the tree will arrive at the stripping stage sooner by having its vitality confined chiefly to the stem. The best period for pruning is during the months from January to March.” (J. E. Brown). Mr. A. L. Thrupp however deprecates pruning in warm northern exposures, as too much sun would be admitted to the stem of the tree.

Mr. F. Abbott recommends that wattle seedlings be thinned out, as soon as they are big enough to handle, to 10 feet apart. This is perhaps a fair distance, but authorities do not agree as to the precise distance. It rather resolves itself into a matter of common-sense, for one must on the one hand avoid having wattles too close to each other, otherwise “leggy” trees are the result, and on the other hand trees too bushy are not desirable.

Wattle-trees should be transplanted with a moderate amount of care, as they are not the hardiest of plants to stand moving.

(f.) Profits to be Derived from Wattle Cultivation.

Wattle cultivation is in its infancy, and, as far as I know, no wattle-grower has favoured the world with a peep at the item “Wattle Cultivation” in his ledger. We are, therefore, chiefly dependent on estimates in lieu of statements of results attained, but those which follow are as trustworthy as can be supplied. Wattle conservation and cultivation have been little taken up in our own Colony, but we are already taking steps to remedy this.

Following are the opinions of gentlemen in the several colonies on the prospect of profit in wattle-planting. They are culled from the reports of the Victorian Royal Commission on Vegetable Products.

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New South Wales.—Mr. Charles Moore, F.L.S., Director of the Botanic Gardens, Sydney,—“They are a very profitable crop indeed.”

Tasmania.—Mr. F. Abbott, Curator of the Botanic Gardens, Hobart,—“I have not the shadow of a doubt that they are a valuable crop to any farmer; they come on in a very short period, and there is always a revenue from them.”

South Australia.—Mr. J. E. Brown, F.L.S., Conservator of Forests, Adelaide,—“With regard, however, to the wattles, there can be but one opinion as to their cultivation being the means of a large and most valuable source of revenue both to individuals and to the State.”

Victoria.—Mr. I. Hallenstein, tanner, currier, and leather merchant, Melbourne,—“I do not think a farmer or anyone with the means could produce any crop more valuable than the wattle-bark. We have got faith in it, or we would not have gone to the expense of putting 800 or 1,000 acres under cultivation.”

The following evidence was given by Mr. W. Ferguson, Inspector of State Forests, Victoria:—

“I calculated that from the time the seed was sown at the Majorca plantations, Ballarat, in seven years we should get about 10 tons to the acre of bark. That is, off the trees that were fit for barking at that time, and at the rate—of the present rate of bark—it varies from £8 to £10 per ton.

“You would get 10 tons to the acre? Yes.

“From trees that have been how many years growing? Seven years.

“That would average £10 a ton? Yes, at the present,—and it is likely to be more.

“That is, £90 per acre? Yes.

“That will be about £13 per acre per annum? Yes.

“Would that take all the trees, or leave a portion remaining? No, only the first thinning out.

“How many thinnings would that plantation admit of year after year? For years and years to come, because you will find them in all stages of growth. But I calculated that from the first thinning-out.

“And would that yield as much each succeeding year? It would yield as much each succeeding year.

“So that you might get 10 tons per acre in each succeeding year? Annually for years to come, if they are judiciously thinned, but not as they are thinning (destroying) them in the forest. If they are properly cultivated—cultivated for profit.

“Can you mention any other crop grown in Victoria more profitable than that? No; and it is grown on such poor land, where neither grass nor anything will grow. In Rodney, where I mention, there is not a bit of grass to be seen, and there the wattles come up thick.”

At the irrigation farm at Islington, near Adelaide, Mr. J. E. Brown planted 40 acres in wattles. “The seed was simply soaked in hot water and broad-casted, and the soil afterwards harrowed with a brush harrow; altogether, the whole expense of seed preparation of the ground, and

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putting the seed in cost about £15. Four years afterwards the wattles were simply thinned, and the bark of the thinnings realized £25, thus more than refunding the original outlay. Next year I hope the thinning will realize something like £3 per acre. In three years time from this we purpose stripping the whole crop, when I am certain it will realize at least £50 per acre.”

Detailed Estimates.

1. The following statement showing the profit to be derived from the systematic cultivation of wattles, was complied from the evidence given before the Board of Enquiry on Wattle Cultivation, Melbourne, 1878, and forms an appendix to their report. (The Board recommend A. decurrens note and A. pycnantha).

Receipts derivable from a Wattle Plantation of say 100 acres, planted in the manner proposed.

Each acre planted with wattles, 10 feet apart, would carry 400 trees; at the end of fifth year, trees would yield say 56 lb. matured bark; stripping only every third tree 333 tons would be obtained off 100 acres; this, at £4 per ton, would give at first stripping  £1,332 0 0 
In the sixth (or following) year, a similar number of trees would be stripped, the bark having increased in weight say 14 lb., the increased yield of second stripping would therefore be 400 tons at £4, making  1,600 0 0 
In the seventh year the remaining trees would be stripped, from which a still greater increase would be obtained, say 480 tons at £4, maknig  1,920 0 0 
The aggregate yield of bark during the first eight years, 1,215 tons, amounting in value to  £4,852 0 0 

Estimate of Expenditure on a Wattle Plantation of 100 acres during eight years.

Rent of 100 acres for eight years, at 6s. per acre per annum  £240 0 0 
Ploughing 100 acres in drills 10 feet apart  25 0 0 
Sowing wattles and actual cultivation, including cost of seed  37 10 0 
Supervision for eight years, say, £10 per annum  80 0 0 
Pruning the trees, taking off useless wood, &c. (only necessary for two years), 10s. per acre  50 0 0 
Incidental and unforeseen expenses  27 10 0 
Interest on the whole amount expended during eight years  240 0 0 
700 0 0 
Actual cost of stripping and carting, as shown belownote   £1,515 0 0 
1,515 0 0 
noteProfit balance, exclusive of improvements or supplementary sowings  £2,637 0 0 
2,637 0 0 
£4,852 0 0 

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2. The following estimate is by Mr. J. E. Brown, and is taken from a report by that gentleman to the South Australian Legislative Council in 1884. (Mr. Brown recommends A. pycnantha):—

REVENUE  £  s.  d.  EXPENDITURE.  £  s.  d. 
To value of property increased and improvements, say  400  By purchase of 100 acres, at £3 per acre  300 
To value of 500 tons of bark, at £5 per ton  2,500  By cost of substantial fence all round, say, 1½ mile at £50 per mile  75 
By ploughing 100 acres, at 8s. per acre  40 
By of 30 lbs. of seed, at 1s. per lb.  10 
By labour, sowing the seed in rows, say, at 5s. per acre  25 
By scarifying between the rows twice, at 4s. per acre  20 
By thinning and pruning for two years, at 10s. per acre per annum  100 
By forming fire-breaks during the third to seventh year, say, £5 per annum  25 
By sundries  50 
By interest on money expended during the seven years, say  280 
By cost of stripping 500 tons of bark, at 25s. per ton  625 
By cost of carting same to market, at 10s. per ton  250 
Balance, being clear profit  1,108 
£  2,900  £  2,900 

Notes on above Estimate.—At the distances apart which I recommend the trees to be grown, namely, 4 to 6 feet, there will be an average of 1,200 trees to the acre. In order, however, to make due allowance for blanks, I base my calculations upon there being 1,000 only to each acre. £5 per ton is only two-thirds of the present selling price of bark. I give 5 tons as the probable yield per acre. That this is a low estimate will be admitted, when it is considered that this only allows for 10 lb. of bark to be taken from each tree. (J. E. Brown).

3. Estimate of expenditure upon and revenue from a wattle plantation of 100 acres, during a term of seven years, by Mr. G. Perrin, Conservator of State Forests, Victoria, 1889.

He recommends the cultivation of the broad-leaf wattle (A. pycnantha); broadcast sowing.

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EXPENDITURE.  £  s.  d. 
To rent of land at 4d. per acre, under Wattle Cultivation Bill, at £1 13s. 4d.  11  13 
To fencing, say, 1 mile and 3 quarters, at £40 per mile  70 
To ploughing (and harrowing twice), at 14s. per acre  79 
To purchase of seed, 1 lb. per acre, 100 lb., at 1s 
To ploughing and burning off fire-breaks, four blocks of 20 acres each, with 20 feet roadway between each block, three furrows on each side, at £10 per annum  70 
To vermin destruction, and unforeseen expenses, say  50 
To first pruning and thinning at end of second year after sowing, say 10s. per acre  50 
To final pruning about fourth year (superficial only), at 5s. per acre  25 
To interest on seven years' rental  £3  15 
To interest on expenditure, say  206  10  10 
To stripping 100 acres of wattles (1,200 trees to the acre), producing 12lb. of bark per tree, or 602 tons in all, at 25s. per ton  807  10 
To cartage to a railway station, say 5s. per ton  165  10 
£1,534  18 
By 100 acres of wattle-bark from 1,200 trees to the acre, each producing 12 lb. of bark—642 tons, £7 10s. per ton  4,815 
Less expenditure  1,534  18 
Profit  £3,281  18 

TABLE to aid in the comparison of the more important items contained in the three foregoing estimates.


Victorian Board.  Mr. Brown.  Mr. Perrin. 
Cost of land per acre  ......  £3 
Rent per acre per annum  6/-  ......  4d. under Wattle Cultivation Bill. 
Fencing, per mile  ......  £50  £10 
Ploughing  £25  £40  £79 (includes harrowing). 
Scarifying, per acre  ......  4/-  ...... 
Fire breaks  £25  £70 (fuller specification). 
Seed and sowing  £37/10/-  £26/10/-  £5 (seed only). 
Pruning, &c., per acre  10/-  10/-  10/- 
Stripping, per ton  15/-  25/-  25/- 
Carting, per ton  10/-  10/-  5/- 
Supervision for eight years  £80  .....  ..... 
Interest on money  £240 (8 years)  £280 (7 years)  £210 5/- (7 years). 
Contingencies  £27/10/-  £50  £50 


Victorian Board.  Mr. Brown.  Mr. Perrin. 
Yield of 5th year trees, each  56 lb.  10 lb. from each 
Yield of 6th year trees, each  70 lb.  tree, admittedly  12 lb. 
Yield of 7th year trees, each  84 lb.note   a low estimate. 
Value of bark, per ton  £4  £5  £7/10/- 
Total yield in tons  1,215 (8 years)  500 (7 years)  642 (7 years).