Monday, July 7, 2014

U is for Ungnadia speciosa

Continuing my series on Plant ABCs with the Ungnadia speciosa or Mexican Buckeye.  The ABCs of plants in my garden is a series featuring a plant in my garden for each letter of the alphabet.  Once the alphabet is completed I will continue to add plant profiles with the goal of an alphabetized plant list for reference.

The letter "U" is somewhat rare in plant naming and often skipped on plant lists.  As rare as it is there are two plants native to my region of Texas with botanical names beginning with the letter "U" and one of them is the Ungnadia speciosa or Mexican Buckeye.




Due to our mild climate we have limited fall color compared to New England.  Mexican Buckeye is one exception.  It turns a glorious bright gold in the fall.  Here's a photo of Mexican Buckeye in full color last fall at the WFSC gardens where I volunteer.



We were a bit surprised when this native tree listed as highly deer resistant in the Native Plant Database turned out to be attractive to deer so it has been corralled by a fence of juniper branches.  The idea is that once it grows above the "browse line" the deer should leave it alone.  It is surrounded by larger trees so antlering should not be a problem.


Mexican Buckeye is easy to find in San Antonio and I found this one on a visit to local gardening center Milberger's last fall and it's sometimes included in tree giveaways at local gardening events.  Although  a bit small now I like how it blends in with the natural area along the creek.  As an understory tree or small shrub it should be quite happy in this partially shady spot.  They are considered fast growing and with all the rain we've had this year there has been a good bit of new growth despite the deer nibbling it until we built the corral.


Native to a fairly narrow range through Texas and New Mexico, Mexican Buckeye gets its common name from the seedpods which resemble buckeyes though it is not related to the more famous Aesculus glabra or Ohio Buckeye tree.  The seeds are also poisonous.



In addition to great fall color we get pretty pink blooms in the early spring.


This kind of fall color is so rare in south Texas that I look forward to mine maturing enough to put on a display like this each year now that we've figured out how to keep the deer away.  It loses its leaves in late fall and they return again in early spring which is usually only a few months here.



The details:

Native to Texas:  Yes
Hardiness: Zone 7
Drought tolerant: Yes
Deer resistant:  Not in my garden, turns out to be a deer magnet!
Height:  8-12 feet

20 comments:

  1. I can appreciate your interest in a tree that provides fall color - we're limited in that respect too so I looked this one up. My Sunset guide lists the plant but unfortunately indicates that it won't work in my zone. It must need some winter chill it can't get here. Pretty though!

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    1. There must be something that provides the color in fall but it is tough in a mild climate.

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  2. An interesting plant that is new to me. Beautiful fall color and the seed pods look way cool!

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    1. As soon as I saw the color on it I knew I had to add it to the garden.

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  3. I have one of these flourishing in fairly deep shade but I haven't noticed the brilliant fall colors or the flowers as shown in your photos. Ours is sort of tucked away on a hillside behind and under other small trees and shrubs so perhaps I simply missed the color because it is not obvious from the route I take to and from our house. I do love the seedpods - they are so distinctive. I've used them in several dried arrangements. I'm newly resolved to pay extra attention this fall and next spring. I want to catch this little wonder in action myself now!

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    1. Apparently some years and locations are better than others so check yours out for color this fall.

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  4. What a lovely autumn colour, a really handsome bush – and completely new to me too.

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    1. We do have some unique plants to our area and they seem to grow in a limited range.

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  5. This has it all, and fills your U slot to boot. Those pesky deer never read the "deer resistant" lists.

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    1. I wish they would follow the lists then we would all get along much better!

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  6. What an amazing color! Yellow is not my favorite color, but I like this one. It reminds me of ... egg's yolk, and I love eggs!

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    1. In our region we would be challenged to garden without yellow, especially in flowers as many of our native flowering plants are yellow.

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  7. Oh my! A new plant for me to research. I love buckeyes, but never see them growing here in Houston. I wonder why? That fall color is stunning!
    I love your garden alphabet. I can't wait to see what you come up with for 'Z'! :0) David

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    1. They carry them at The Antique Rose Emporium so they just might work in Houston.

      Z is pretty easy, I think it was X that was the biggest challenge and that is coming up soon.

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  8. Very nice fall color on that tree. When I had a Mexican buckeye, its fall color was more greenish yellow most years. It usually had a nicer floral display in the spring. Good luck with yours. It looks like it is in a nice spot, although it may crowd out the cactus one day.

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    1. It must vary with the weather, the fall color was gorgeous but the blooms were probably sparse due to several late freezes.

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  9. Shirley this is a perfect tree...gorgeous color but too bad about the deer....

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    1. Too bad about the deer...is kind of the story of my garden. They were here first and we could fence in our back yard but then we would lose the view of the creek.

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  10. Looks good, first time I saw that plant blooming on a hike 20 years ago, I've never forgotten it - except to design with it! Being your Ungnadia is not far from Uvalde and Utopia, I think you're in luck...

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    1. The blooms were a bit sparse this year due to weather I think so I'll keep an eye out for better blooms next year.

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