The Acacia Paradoxa – Native Bird Habitat Shrub

One of the plants included in our front yard landscape redesign is the Acacia Paradoxa, otherwise known as the Hedge Wattle or Kangaroo Thorn. This plant will be planted on the ‘house’ side of the Hopbush hedge, and will act as a food source for moths, butterflies, insects, parrots and pigeons, as well as a nesting refuge for small birds, such as the Blue Fairy Wrens and Thornbills.

I see this plant every day on my walk around the local lake. It’s used quite often in new parks and revegation projects around this area, so it’s likely you’ll have seen it. At first I thought it looked scraggly and unattractive, but it’s grown on me over the last few months. Each time I see it and take a closer look, it reveals more of it’s features that I know will work well in the front yard for our bird habitat.

The Paradoxa is not a naturally attractive plant when compared to other native plants, and I will place an educated bet on you having never given it a second look! From a distance it’s an untidy looking shrub, that grows to about 2 meters tall and wide. The shrub has small sticky-looking leaves that grow close to the branch, and there are thorns on either side (which accounts for the ‘Thorn’ part in it’s nickname). Like most Acacias, the Paradoxa flowers in Spring with small little, yellow balls. The prolific flowering is a lovely reminder that the cold winder months are over and it’s time to get outside and enjoy the sunshine!

The thorny nature of the Paradoxa gives it a weed-like appearance, and people do often mistake the Paradoxa for the introduced African Boxthorn (which is a classified noxious weed). It got grouped with the boxthorn because the Paradoxa easily establishes itself from seed in disturbed sites. But unlike the African Boxthorn, Paradoxa will natually thin itself out over time as other plants establish themselves around it.

As you can imagine, the Paradoxa is a perfect plant for the small birds to shelter and nest in. I can’t see too many cats or Myna birds being determined enough to get through all those spikes when there might be an easier target elsewhere.

From my reading it’s recommended to prune the bush lightly after flowering (apparently it does not like hard pruning) to keep the bush healthy and give it a denser and compact habit. Looks like I’m going to need to invest in some thick gardening gloves to deal with all those thorns!

I’m really interested to see if I can prune the Paradoxa into a pleasing shape. The examples I see on my morning walks have just been left to their own accord and look messy. But that said, I really like the architectural nature of the shrub and think it could add a strong structural element in the front yard.

And of course I’m hoping it will become home to a lucky family of Wrens, or other small birds!