Charming and cheery are the flowers of the Retama, Parkinsonia aculeata, during the warm season and they showed their yellow selves on my tree in May. Thanking Lucy at Loose and Leafy for Tree Following and for June’s edition, it’s May flowers all around for my Retama.
The flowers are many toward the top of my tree, far above my reach and there’s always a puff of wind when I’m trying to snap a photo.
Though these photos are less than crystal clear, Retama blooms are interesting. Sunshine yellow , these flowers develop in clusters and each consists of five turned back petals. In the center of each bloom is a group of green stamens, 10 is what the literature claims, but honestly I’ve never counted.
One petal, the “top” one, is slightly larger than the others and turns red/orange as the bloom ages and begins to wither. According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center this petal has a “honey” gland which is what causes the color change.
These photos are the best I could muster given our many days of heavy rain, some traveling away from home, and photographic frustration. You can click on this link for an excellent close-up shot of this pretty and unusual flower.
Actually, I like this photo of two blooms that were knocked off of the tree by one of the heavy rain events of this past month.
They share space with an acorn and the leaves and red, spent bloom of a Tropical Sage, Salvia coccinea.
But more important than its being another pretty face, Retama is considered an excellent wildlife plant. Of course I never had my camera handy when I observed, but I’ve seen honeybees, native bees, some butterflies, and a hummingbird feeding at the flowers this past month. As with other parts of the Retama, scientific research supports the important role that the flowers play in traditional medicine. The flowers are dried then applied as a poultice for the treatment for rheumatism. Along with the leaves, the blooms also possess antidiabetic and antimalarial qualities.
Interestingly, I would say that my Retama isn’t blooming as well as I’ve seen in past years.
Yes, the flowers are lovely, but I’ve seen it bloom solid, almost blindingly yellow in other years. Like many native-to-Texas plants, Retama likes water, thank you very much, but too much water, is…too much. Austin received over 17 inches of rain in May (our normal rainfall for May is about 4 inches), and the flooding has hampered some native plants’ bloom production–at least in my gardens. Many native Texas plants grow and flower better in “normal” conditions, or even slightly dryer-than-normal conditions. The Retama isn’t harmed by the rain, but I suspect it won’t have a banner blooming year.
Check out Loose and Leafy for other June arboreal action.