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.
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