Tree Following: Retama in December, 2014

Meet my tree, the Retama, Parkinsonia

I’m new to the Tree Following meme, having joined last month, but my tree is native to Texas (where I’m also a native), as well as other areas of the southwest United States, Mexico, and parts of Central and South America.  Last month, I profiled this lovely, small tree in a general way and this month? Let’s see what’s happening, shall we?

Mostly, it’s dropping its foliage,

…all around its immediate vicinity.  But then again, so are other trees.  Here lie the slender stalks that are the leaves of

Co-mingling on the ground along with the turned and fallen brown leaves of a nearby Red Oak tree, this interesting foliage resembles little sticks.

Not sticks though, these are leaves, commonly referred to as “stalks.” The leaf structure of the Retama is unusual–a botanist would describe it as bipinnately compound; there are two stalks from an axis and each stalk has series of tiny leaflets arranged on either side of the stalks.  Most of the stalks and leaflets from my tree have dropped, but you can see remaining ones in silhouette against the sky.

As days shorten and cooler temperatures reign, the remaining stalks and leaflets will exit from the tree. Retama is dormant in winter, though during a prolonged drought, the same defoliation process occurs and the trunk and stems carry on the photosynthesis function of the foliage. The Retama is a valuable medicinal plant.  In Brazil, where it’s also  a native, parts of this tree have been used as a traditional remedy for hyperglycemia. In 2011 an article was published about the antidiabetic properties of Retama in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal.  Using “aerial” parts of the Retama (parts that are above ground), these researchers dried and combined a powered form of the plant parts in a suspension which was administered to rats (yeah, sorry about that…).    Simplified, the results indicated a decrease in both blood and urine glucose in the rats, without accompanying toxicity or negative side-effects related to the use of this plant during treatment.  Diabetic rats showed improvement in kidney, adipose tissue, and skeletal muscle tissue when ingesting the Retama suspension just before a sugar load.

The researchers concluded that the use of P. aculeata, (what I like to call Retama) is an appropriate treatment either alone or in conjunction with other medications for the treatment of diabetes mellitus.

That’s very cool.

If you’d like to read the full article, click here.  This is the full citation:  Ana Catarina Rezende Leite, Tiago Gomes Araújo, Bruno de Melo Carvalho, Maria Bernadete Souza Maia, and Vera Lúcia de Menezes Lima, “Characterization of the Antidiabetic Role of Parkinsonia aculeata (Caesalpineaceae),” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2011, Article ID 692378, 9 pages, 2011. doi:10.1155/2011/692378

Interestingly, the article indicated that the area where the Retama, P. aculeata, grows in Brazil is a “semi-arid” region–much like that part of the United States where Retama is native–for example, here in Texas.

I planted my Retama because it’s pretty.

I planted Retama because it’s a hardy, drought tolerant native Texas tree.  I also planted it because the bees and the birds like it.  I’m fascinated though, that this lovely tree helps people in a far away place and that they’ve known its value (for more than its good looks) for a long time.

Maybe nurseries should advertise:  Retama: it’s pretty and it saves lives.

This coming year, we’ll be learning lots of interesting facts about this extraordinary little tree.

Thanks to Lucy for hosting Tree Following–please pop over to Loose and Leafy and check out trees being followed by garden and tree enthusiasts from all over the world.

15 thoughts on “Tree Following: Retama in December, 2014

  1. Lovingly photographed & showing so many moods. Nice. The more I learn about ethnobotany … the more I want to learn. I am only at the place where I am learning names of the plants existing in this place. It is a bit like being a kindergarten student learning the alphabet when all around me is a living library. Humbling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I certainly agree that there is much to learn. I sometimes feel like I’m very shallow in my gardening choices–really, I just planted the retama because it’s native and pretty and I knew it would require any effort to grow. I don’t usually learn the full range of the importance of plants. As for the retama specifically, I’m so glad that I “picked” this plant to study–it’s quite fascinating.


  2. A beautiful and unusual tree! Thank you for sharing more about them. I enjoy there flower but fun to see their little stems on the ground mixed with other leaves.


  3. A fascinating example of how a tree we often take for granted as it grows all around us quietly stands ready to save lives. That makes me wonder what other medicinal marvels are out in my yard. More than I’d ever guess, I’m betting.

    The green bark of retama has always made me happy to look at. It is as though it is not REALLY a tree but rather a succulent, of gigantic proportions!


    • I suspect there are plenty of medicinally valuable plants, though they’ll only be utilized if the pharmaceutical companies can make a profit from them. Like you, I always smile at the green bark– there’s something odd and wonderful about that bark.


    • I agree that it’s fascinating and I had no idea about its many uses and potentials. I planted it because it’s a gorgeous and tough tree. It’s one of those that you see along the highway and it just grows-without care because it belongs here.

      I sort of have a background–I took my share of Chemistry, etc. in college, but I’m no scientist. I do like to learn though–both from an artistic and technical perspective, so I make efforts to read and hopefully, to understand.


    • I think you can start at anytime–that’s what I’m doing. It’s blogging–we do what we want, right? 🙂 I’ll follow my retama until next November, then find another. It’s interesting, focusing on one plant–jump in! I’d love to read your posts.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love the retama. We had one growing across the road int he culvert and then suddenly it was over here on our lots. I have at least 4 and although they are not all in the best of places I let them be. I have tried transplanting but with no success. Love the flowers but don’t angle with those thorns.


    • I’m sure you would know to appreciate the retama. Interesting that it’s hard to transplant. Mine has produced a couple of babies which I’m giving to a neighbor–I’ll need to watch that as we dig up and dig in. And you’re also correct: gorgeous clusters of flowers and nasty, mean thorns.


  5. Pingback: A Seasonal Look: Retama (Parkinsonia aculeata) | My Gardener Says…

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