What Wattle is that?
A new app – “WATTLE: Acacias of Australia” – will help provide an answer.
Wattles (botanically called Acacia) have great cultural, environmental, scientific and other significance in Australia. Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) is our national floral emblem and 1 September is celebrated annually as our official Wattle Day. A Wattle species is incorporated into the Australian Coat of Arms and the design of The Order of Australia medals, which recognise achievement or meritorious service by citizens, is based on a single wattle blossom. And who isn’t familiar with the “Green and Gold”, our official national colours proudly worn by many Australian sporting teams; these colours are taken from the predominant colours of wattle foliage and flowers. Most recently, different species of wattle are featured on the new currency notes that are being released by the Reserve Bank of Australia.
Wattles are by far the largest group of woody plants in Australia with over 1000 species currently recognised. These species are important to the environment and represent a resource for both social and environmental utilisation. However, to be effectively managed and used, the species must first to be correctly identified. The naming of wattles was greatly simplified in 2001 with the publication on CD of an electronic identification key called WATTLE; this key was subsequently updated and made available on the web in 2014.
Now we have the WATTLE App, a revised electronic key that was released on Wattle Day this year. This key retains the best characteristics of earlier editions of WATTLE but includes more species and adds features that make species identification easier and more accurate. The WATTLE App can be downloaded to an Android/Apple smartphone or tablet. No phone or Wi-Fi connection is required to use the key, making it especially valuable for people working in the field. The WATTLE App is therefore a very useful tool for researchers, conservationists, amateur botanists, horticulturalists and indeed, for anyone interested in naming wattles, either within Australia or in other countries where wattles are found.
Like its predecessors the WATTLE App uses the powerful Lucid program that helps to make the naming process quick, simple and reliable. To name specimens users answer a few simple questions regarding morphological features of the plant they are trying to identify – its leaf form, flower details, etc. – or where the plant is found in Australia. Based on answers to questions Lucid progressively removes species from a list of 1270 different kinds of wattle, leaving just a few or a single wattle that the specimen is likely to be.
The WATTLE App incorporates images and text to help users understand and correctly interpret morphological features of their plant. Similarly, most of the 1270 different types of wattle included in the key are accompanied by line drawings, photographs, maps and the most recent descriptive information, all of which help users confirm the identity of the plant they are trying to name.
The WATTLE key has been developed over the past 20 years or more by Bruce Maslin, assisted by many other Australian botanists. Funding to support the development of the these keys, and the WATTLE App, has been provided by the Australian Biological Resources Study, IDENTIC, the Atlas of Living Australia and other agencies.
The Android and Apple versions of the WATTLE App can be downloaded from the Google Play and iTunes app stores respectively on payment of $9.95 to help fund further content updates and software upgrades.
Similar Lucid Mobile identification apps include “Rainforest Plants of Australia: Rockhampton to Victoria” (released) and “Snakes of Australia” (due for release later this year) [See www.lucidcentral.org].
Media note: To interview Bruce Maslin contact: Anthony Whalen (General Manager, Australian Biological Resources Study, Department of the Environment and Energy. m: 0411 512 248. e: Anthony.Whalen@environment.gov.au