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Word of the Week (137): WIRILDA, by David Sutton

A WIRILDA is a kind of acacia tree found in Australia; the name is from a native Australian language.

There seem to be a surprising number of words for different species of Australian acacia, but as no fewer than 960 of the 1300 species of acacia are native to Australia this should not surprise us. The word acacia, incidentally, derives from the Greek akis, thorn, but in point of fact many Australian acacias are not thorny, unlike, say, the American CATCLAW. A popular term for Australian acacias is wattles, which gives us WATTLEBARK, a chemically rich bark used for tanning.

Other Australian acacias include the BLACKWOOD, which attains a great size and yields a valuable timber that takes a high polish; the BRIGALOW, which forms woodlands on clay soil but is replaced in drier areas by the GIDGEE or GIDJEE, the leaves of which give off an unpleasant odour; the SALLEE, which as well as being an acacia can also refer to a kind of eucalyptus known as the snow gum; the EUMONG or EUMUNG; the MULGA, the BOREE and the MYALL.

One may also mention the BABOOL (or BABUL or BABLAH), an acacia native to Africa and the Indian subcontinent, which has become a significant problem in Australia as an invasive species.


   













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