Farming with Habitat - Embracing the Wild Irishman
Early in our time at Highfield we were asked by our welcoming neighbours what
we were going to do about the Wild Irishman. David and I looked at each other
wondering who they may be referring to – the young man who lives down the
creek a little further perhaps? He has an Irish surname. He is a little eccentric
but ‘wild’? Did they mean him?
As the conversation continued we finally worked out that they were referring to
a particularly spikey wattle that grows here called Acacia paradoxa.
It’s not a particularly attractive plant, at least when it’s not in flower – it’s
scrubby and spikey and dies after a few short years leaving a troublesome
tumble weed. But the paradox of this plant is that it is absolutely stunning in full
flower with tiny fluffy balls of wattle flowers appearing densely along the stems
of the plant on long stalks.
It’s spikey habit has made it an enemy of wool farmers. It’s not the kind of plant
you want in your wool clip as it is particularly difficult to remove and pretty
It’s also a plant that annoys those who are determined to clear their farm land of
native shrubs as it’s one of the first plants to grow back. Each year in spring
driving around the region you can see evidence of it having been sprayed.
When we realized that we were being asked about our attitude to Acacia
paradoxa, we replied that we weren’t going to do anything about it, that we’d let
As we see it Acacia paradoxa brings many benefits to both wildlife and the farm.
Because of its extremely spikey nature, Acacia paradoxa provides protection for
many small birds such as thornbills and wrens from predation by larger birds.
Indeed some birds even use the bush to nest in. Each spring the tiny Diamond
Firetails and Western Gerygones build nests in the shrub.
Later in the season when the fluffy flowers have tuned into seed pods, seed
eating birds forage under the spikey shrubs for protein–rich food.
Even eucalypts benefit from Acacia paradoxa. It’s quite common to see young
eucalypts growing with the protection of the spiky shrub. By the time the wattle
dies, the young eucalypt is tall enough and sturdy enough to survive on its own.
But it’s not only native birds and plants that benefit from Acacia paradoxa, the
unloved plant also brings real benefits to farming.
All wattles have the particular skill of converting atmospheric nitrogen and
fixing it in the soil bringing free fertility to the paddocks.
And the seed pods of wattles including Acacia paradoxa have been proven to
contain natural worming agents saving on using expensive chemical worming
With so many benefits for native plants, animals and farming why would we
eradicate Acacia paradoxa from our paddocks? We embrace the ‘Wild Irishman’.