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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - January 03, 2006

From: Seattle, WA
Region: Northwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Non-native acacias for Washington State
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hello! I have been unable to find any sources for the seed of Prairie Acacia, Acacia angustissima var hirta. Var angustissima, from tropical America, is in cultivation, but I think it is tender to cold, and it also happens to be a woody shrub, whereas the native form is more-or-less herbaceous. Do you know a source for US native Prairie Acacia? Much obliged for your time and effort!

ANSWER:

The National Suppliers Directory on Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center web page features seed companies and nurseries specializing in native plants. You can search by region or state. Many of the companies have internet addresses; however, none of the ones I visited in the distribution range (Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas) for Prairie acacia (Acacia angustissima) listed it for sale. You might be able to find seeds by contacting by telephone the companies that do not list web page addresses.

Prairie acacia is native to North, Central and South America and the Caribbean, but it has been introduced into Africa and Asia to be grown as a forage plant for livestock. Its other uses include soil improvement by means of nitrogen fixation and traditional native medicinal treatments. Texas A&M lists its maximum cold hardiness as Zone 8 with minimum temperatures of 10-20 degrees F. Seattle does fall within hardiness Zone 8. However, Seattle is not in the distribution range for A. angustissima so it could be surmised that cold is not the limiting factor for its growth in the area. Additionally, even though Seattle is within Zone 8, the zones are based on average minimum temperatures and microclimates may exist within the zone that have a temperature too low to support the Acacia. The Wildflower Center discourages introducing plants into areas outside their known natural distribution. Our recommendation would be to substitute a plant that has Seattle within its native range. The Washington Native Plant Society has a list of Pacific Northwest Plants for Western Washington Gardens that offers alternatives.
 

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