New Australian Taxa

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A revision of Western Australia's Acacia pulchella R.Br. species group (Fabaceae: Mimosoideae)

Kevin R. Thiele (1*) & G. Cockerton (2)

(1) Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Parks and Wildlife,
Locked Bag 104, Bentley Delivery Centre, Western Australia 6983
(2) Western Botanical, PO Box 3608, Midland, Western Australia 6056 1
Corresponding author, email:



The Acacia pulchella R.Br. species group comprises a series of taxa widespread in south-western Western Australia, hitherto recognised at the rank of variety. Extensive field work and assessment of the taxa in the Western Australian Herbarium indicates that they should be recognised at species rank, given that two or more varieties frequently co-occur with no evidence of hybridisation. Further, several species in the group have been previously overlooked; these are here described as A. binningupensis K.R.Thiele & Cockerton sp. nov. and A. paludosa K.R.Thiele & Cockerton sp. nov.. Acacia goadbyi Domin is reinstated at species rank, while A. glaberrima (Meisn.) K.R.Thiele comb. et stat. nov. and A. reflexa (Maslin) K.R.Thiele comb. et stat. nov. are raised from varietal to species rank.


The Acacia pulchella R.Br. species group as dealt with in this paper comprises four recognised taxa currently ranked as varieties, viz. A. pulchella var. pulchella, A. pulchella var. glaberrima Meisn., A. pulchella var. goadbyi (Domin) Maslin and A. pulchella var. reflexa Maslin.


Acacia pulchella forms the core of a larger group of species comprising Acacia ser. Pulchellae Benth., which was comprehensively revised by Maslin (1975). With the exception of one species, A. mitchellii Benth., all species of ser. Pulchellae are endemic in south-west Western Australia. Maslin (1975) recognised 45 taxa in 24 species; subsequently, Maslin (1979) raised several varieties and subspecies to species rank and recognised several further species and other taxa. In the Flora of Australia treatment of Acacia, Maslin (2001) recognised 44 taxa in 27 species in an informal 'sect. Pulchellae' (=ser. Pulchellae).


Acacia series (or section) Pulchellae forms a morphologically rather diverse group, characterised by bipinnate leaves with 1–3(4–8) pairs of pinnae and globular or shortly cylindrical flowerheads in simple or very shortly racemose inflorescences. It is currently unclear whether the series is monophyletic (Murphy 2008), pending a comprehensive phylogenetic analysis of the whole genus.


Within ser. Pulchellae, Maslin (1975) recognised a tight-knit group comprising the three species A. pulchella, A. lasiocarpa Benth. and A. megacephala B.R.Maslin and characterised by axillary spines (comprising reduced, leafless, pungent short-shoots), and stipitate leaf glands. Four further species, A. amputata Maslin, A. epacantha Maslin, A. fagonioides Benth. and A. guinetii Maslin are now also recognised in this group following the raising of various varieties of A. pulchella and A. lasiocarpa to species rank by Maslin (1979).


The present study began when one of us (GC) collected material of an unusual Acacia near Binningup, W.A. Examination showed that the material clearly belonged in the A. pulchella species group and most closely matched (but differed significantly from) A. pulchella var. goadbyi. Herbarium and field studies ensued to determine if the Binningup plants fell within the range of variation in A. pulchella var. goadbyi or comprised a new taxon. These studies demonstrated that (a) the Binningup plants are indeed distinct, (b) all taxa currently recognised as varieties of A. pulchella are best treated at species rank, and (c) the group also includes several currently unrecognised taxa.


Accordingly, in this paper we raise A. pulchella var. glaberrima, A. pulchella var. goadbyi and A. pulchella var. reflexa to species rank as A. glaberrima (Meisn.) K.R.Thiele, A. goadbyi Domin and A. reflexa (Maslin) K.R.Thiele respectively, describe as new A. binningupensis K.R.Thiele & Cockerton and A. brevipedunculata Maslin ex. K.R.Thiele, and reinstate A. denudata Lehm.

Materials & Methods





Swainsona hammeri



Supplementary Material


Maslin, B.R. (1975). Studies in the genus Acacia (Mimosaceae) - 4. A revision of the Series Pulchellae. Nuytsia 1(5): 388–494.


Maslin, B.R. (1979). Studies in the genus Acacia (Mimosaceae) - 9. Additional notes on the Series Pulchellae Benth. Nuytsia 6(6): 354–367.


Maslin, B.R. (2001). Mimosaceae. Acacia part 2, in A.E. Orchard & A.J.G. Wilson (eds) Flora of Australia Vol. 11B. (Australian Biological Resources Study: Canberra)


Murphy, D.J. (2008). A review of the classification of Acacia (Leguminosae, Mimosoideae). Muelleria 26(1): 10–26 (2008)

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