Acacia baileyana 'Purpurea' (Purple Fernleaf Acacia) - A fast-growing small evergreen tree that typically grows no taller than 20 feet with a wide-spreading canopy 20 to 40 feet wide with weeping branches holding silvery blue-gray, feathery leaves that are tinged with purple when emerging. Sweetly fragrant bright golden-yellow flowers, in small globose clusters appear in late winter through early spring.
Plant in full sun to light filtered shade; once established it is frost tolerant and moderately drought tolerant. Cold hardy to 15-20 degrees F. As with many in the genus, it is relatively short lived for a tree but for 30 years or so makes a dramatic statement in the garden as a trained-up street or patio tree or left with lower branches as a large shrub or low branched tree. A great plant for slopes. The species Acacia baileyana has been identified as invasive in other mediterranean climate regions of the world and has reseeded in a few areas within California, so is best not used near the urban–rural interface or close to sensitive wildland habitats.
Fernleaf Acacia has a very restricted natural distribution confined to the vicinity of Cootamundra in southern New South Wales, Australia where it is commonly called the Cootamundra Wattle. The name Acacia comes either from the Greek word 'akazo' meaning "to sharpen" or from the Egyptian word 'akakia', a name given to the Egyptian Thorn, Acacia arabica. The specific epithet honors the Frederick Manson Bailey (1827-1915), Australian botanist and son of colonial botanist John Bailey (1800-1864).
The species, Acacia baileyana, was first introduced into California by Dr. Francesco Franceschi (AKA Emanuele Orazio Fenzi) in 1903. The purple leaf form has long been in cultivation and was first introduced into cultivation in California around 1935, but its actual origin remains unknown. Naturally occurring plants in the wild have been noted to have varying degree of purple in the new growth and the cultivar name 'Purpurea' was registered by the Australian Cultivar Registration Authority in 1994. Both Acacia baileyana and the cultivar 'Purpurea' received the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in 1993. We have grown this plant using this name since 1982. For more information about the species, see our listing of Acacia baileyana.
Information about Acacia baileyana 'Purpurea' displayed on this page is based on our research about it conducted in our library and gathered from reliable online sources. We include observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well as how the crops have performed in containers in our own nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others about this plant when we feel it adds information and particularly welcome hearing from anyone who has any additional cultural recommendations that would aid others in growing it.