Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mexican Buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa)

I've been doing a Plant of the Month handout for our local garden club for more than a year but just realized I could have been sharing these great plants with my blog-friends too, as most of the featured plants will grow in a range of zones. 

And I'll admit to liking the idea of spreading the Hill Country around.  With a few plants, a substantial margarita and a sunset, you can feel the Hill Country magic too.
So look for more POMs in occasional posts.  My emphasis is on water-wise perennials providing some form of habitat for birds, butterflies, bees or wildlife.
I have a special fondness for Mexican Buckeyes--they were the first trees I planted in our Hill Country yard.  Planted before I knew we'd have years with almost no rain, in the back woodland where I wouldn't be watering.  After five years my little 18" trees have grown to five feet with next-to-no care.  You've got to love survivors. 
Mexican Buckeye is a small tree for shady spaces, the kind you plant when you don’t want a lot of maintenance but you’d like spring blooms and fragrance.  
Despite the name, the tree is native to Texas and New Mexico, common in rocky canyons and on slopes and ridges in South, Central, and West Texas.  As you’d guess from the habitat, it's drought-tolerant (once established) and acclimated to Hill Country climate cycles.  Hardy in zones 7a-9b.
Height is normally 8-12 feet but may reach 30 feet in optimum conditions.  Requires well-draining alkaline soil but isn't picky about soil type--will live in rocky areas, sand, loam, clay and caliche.  To plant in clay, site on a slope for drainage. 
Mexican buckeye does best in part-shade but will survive sun with regular watering.  The leaves fall in autumn but return in spring along with fragrant pink blossoms, more blooms in years with rain.   
Modest deer resistance, fencing is suggested until the tree is tall enough for the canopy to be above browsing reach. 
Parents and pet-owners please note, Mexican buckeye seeds are attractive to little ones but poisonous to eat.  The dark 'beads' in this appealing necklace are Mexican Buckeye seeds, the red are Texas Mountain Laurel, both poisonous to eat (but OK to wear).  For more cool natural jewelry, check out Austin jewelry designer Kathy Sahagian's website
Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.


  1. Beautiful plant -- I wonder how it'd do in southern CA.

  2. Good plant choice - even survived our brief deep freeze in Abq. Tough...and quite the divine picture of a sunset, sipping a margarita on a porch, and a grove of MX Buckeye flowering in the breeze!

  3. I'll drink to that! I love this plant and have planted some seeds , hopefully! digging a hole is just about impossible here but I can put in a seed. Thanks for reminding me.

  4. The POM - Mexican Buckeye sounds like a good option for our drought conditions. Nice to know something with pretty pink blooms can survive with little water. The margarita sounds good too;)

  5. I love that you are going to be sharing your Plant of the Month with us =o). This has a very different flower than our California Buckeye, which is a well-loved plant that grows wild in this (northern CA) part of the woods.
    x0 N2

  6. Such a pretty tree Kathleen, nice green leaves and flowers too. I am sure it would do well here on my piece of land which is part of a sandstone escarpment. Every time I find a nice spot where I would like to plant a tree I find rock. The mattock (pickax) has come in handy over the years.
    xoxoxo ♡

  7. Was it named by immigrants from Ohio?

    BTW, if you have plants, a sunset and two or three Margaritas, what to you get?


  8. I need to add this to my garden - though I'm a little afraid to do any planting. Some of my new plants made it through this summer - maybe this one would, also. Sounds appropriately tough!

  9. Love the flowers! will it grow in Florida I wonder?

  10. Next-to-no care is great. If blogs were only that simple.

  11. Grove Park Inn is a nice place to stay. Do remember to bring plenty of money....

  12. I was hiking the Lower Pecos canyon land last week and Mexican buckeyes were in full bloom. Gorgeous pink blooms in the gray and gold canyon!

  13. Its only flaw is that the blooms are light and blow perfectly into my pool in April every year!


My readers are all geniuses. Can't wait to see what you have to say.