Callicoma is a monotypic genus (i.e. having only a single species). C.serratifolia is a large shrub to medium tree which can reach about 15-20 metres in good conditions. The soft leaves are elliptical to lanceolate in shape with distinctly toothed margins and up to 120 mm long. They are usually smooth on the upper surface and slightly woolly (tomentose) on the under side. The flowers occur in spring in ball-like clusters about 10-20 mm in diameter and are usually cream coloured. The flower heads resemble those of some wattle (Acacia) species but the two genera are not related. The pale yellow flowers appear in spring and are followed by globular fruits which split when ripe to release the seeds.
This is an interesting plant historically as it was the main species used in ‘wattle and daub’ huts by the first European settlers to Port Jackson. This gave rise to the common name of ‘Black wattle’, a name shared with most species of Acacia.
C.serratifolia has been in cultivation for many years although it is not widely grown in gardens. It is a hardy and attractive small tree which is frost tolerant and should be adaptable to a wide range of climates and soils provided moisture is available.
Propagation can be carried out from seed which germinates well, without treatment. Cuttings of firm, current season’s growth are also successful.
Photo: Brian Walters