Another favorite tree: Acacia baileyana aka Cootamundra wattle

Succulents are fine by themselves, but they're even better when surrounded by companion plants that complement their shapes and textures and have similar cultivation needs. Based on what I get asked, it appears that many gardeners are interested in trees that go well with their succulents.

It's no secret that I love palo verdes, especially the thornless hybrids 'Desert Museum' and 'Sonoran Emerald'. We have three, and I'm happy to see that they're becoming more available in our local nurseries.

This post is about another tree that's near and dear to me: Acacia baileyana 'Purpurea'.

In my recent post about our front garden I briefly mentioned that we had planted an Acacia baileyana 'Purpurea' to replace an unsightly, diseased 'Aristocrat' pear. Today I want to show you what this Australian native, which goes by the funny name of Cootamundra wattle in its homeland, looks like as a mature tree:

The grouping of Acacia baileyana 'Purpurea' in these photos is in front of a doctor's office in Walnut Creek, not far from the Ruth Bancroft Garden. 

You might think these trees have been here for a while, but in this Google Street View photo from May 2015 they look recently planted.

There are five individual trees, if I counted correctly, and they do show some variation in foliage color. A few of them are particularly silver:

I continue to be fascinated by these leaves:

The grayish-pink panicles that are now forming are the flowers that will open in late winter.

What makes Acacia baileyana 'Purpurea' so special is the coloration of the new leaves. They emerge in shades of purple or lavendar and turn bluish gray as they age. The specimen in photo below, taken at John Kuzma's amazing garden in Portland, OR, is a great example:

This differs from the species where the new leaves are the same color as the rest, as seen here at the Sacramento Zoo:

The sweetly scented flowers are arranged in showy clusters of golden yellow pom poms. They are at their peak in late winter—the photos below were taken in February at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum:


Botanical name: Acacia baileyana (and Acacia baileyana 'Purpurea')
Common name: Cootamundra wattle
Origin: southern New South Wales, Australia
Plant type: evergreen tree 
Height and spread: 20×20 ft.
Growth: rapid; mature size in 3-5 years
Exposure: full sun
Hardiness: 15-20°F
Water: low
Maintenance: very little but takes well to pruning

Acacia baileyana 'Purpurea' can reseed. The Marina Tree and Garden Club in Marina, CA on the Central Coast says it reseeds "freely EVERYWHERE." In contrast, San Marcos Growers says that "[i]n southern California this species is not known to reseed or be invasive."

Our tree was grown from seed collected by a friend of a friend in Fort Bragg, CA, north of Mendocino.

Our Acacia baileyana 'Purpurea', in the ground since December 2016


  1. Congratulations on your new addition! It's a beautiful tree and the purple color on the new growth makes it extra special.

  2. I’ve been lucky enough to grow a couple of these, both now deceased of course.

  3. Beautiful tree, apparently not long-lived, and weak-wooded. Not for people with pollen allergies. A neighbor had one for 20 years. It snapped and blew over a couple of years ago in a Santa Ana Wind event. It was a seedling from yet another neighbor, so they do reseed in So Cal, perhaps not much.

  4. Great trees! Do you know what the reddish plants are in the third picture from the top, center left?

  5. Cootamundra is not a funny name it is a town in nsw where the cricketer zDon Bradman was born not a funny name like Fort Bragg!!

  6. This tree is one of my absolute favourites. The tips of the foliage are a beautiful purple colour...stunning and most unusual..these photos don't do it justice. Also brilliant yellow wattle flowers in winter when most plants aren't flowering. Fast growing and requires little watering.


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