Tree Following, July 2015: Lush and Leafy

Here I am, once more checking up on the Retama, Parkinsonia aculeata, for Tree Following, hosted by Lucy at Loose and Leafy.  Truthfully, there’s not much change from last month.  I took these photos a few days after June’s Tree Following virtual  convocation.

There are sparkles of blooms, but most of the flowers that were on the tree, dropped.  With heavy rains in May and early June, the tree flowered.  But the flowers had quite enough at that rainfall party, thank you very much, and exited the tree like floral confetti.  Most rain-battered blooms ended on the ground.  Some,

…decorated the honeybees’ watering hole. Now in July, there are blooms on the tree, but fewer and toward the top.   These hard-to-photograph, waving-in-the-breeze flowers are visited by a variety of bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.

The tree remains a resting spot for birds eyeballing the sunflower seed feeder in the adjacent Shumard Oak, or chastising the cats and the gardener who stroll along the pathway. Sometimes, the birds are just hanging out,

…like this Black-crested Titmouse, a juvenile I think.

Not as many blooms, but the foliage remains lush and leafy for mid-summer.

Thanks to Lucy at  Loose and Leafy for hosting Tree Following.  Pop over to her site to learn about trees from many places and situations.

Tree Following, June 2015: May Flowers

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. In glorious profusion, amidst feathery foliage, the flowers have brightened our very wet and dreary May.

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. 

The floriferous tree is welcome in my May-June garden and I enjoy it for its

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. No matter.  It’s still gorgeous. And the flowers are welcome–to me and to the myriad critters who enjoy what the tree offers: foliage, bark, and  blooms.

Check out Loose and Leafy for other June arboreal action.

Tree Following, May 2016: Waiting for Blooms

Thanking Lucy at Loose and Leafy for hosting the fun Tree Following meme, we’re checking in today on our chosen trees. My Retama, Parkinsonia aculeata, leafed-out fully this past month, providing a respite for this Red-winged Blackbird during his visit to my garden.

No longer just a display of green bones that are trunk and limbs,

…the tiny, flat leaflets formed along the paired stalks and sport a spring green that is most welcome in my garden.

The fine foliage is lacy against the sky.

The tree fills in a space between the backdrop of neighbors’ trees and my own Shumard Oak,  Quercus shumardii.  Those blasted electric lines traverse the foliage.

I guess I shouldn’t complain about the lines though, should I?  After all, I couldn’t very well write about Retama and hit “send”  without them.

The Retama is lovely in any light–I’m so glad I have one in my garden and that I chose it to follow this year.


In the past week, look what’s happened!


Just a few for now and they are clustered together in the topmost foliage, but soon the flowers will appear all over the tree and pollinators of all stripes and wings will visit.   It’s been windy here recently, so good photos are tricky.

As this week is National Wildflower Week in the U.S. I think it’s appropriate to laud the Retama’s beauty and appropriateness in its native range.  Retama is a native small tree/shrub to Texas and a bunch of other places throughout North and South America.   It is an arid climate plant, thriving in dry, hot conditions and a valuable plant in many ways–medicinally, and scientifically, as well as being important for erosion control and soil reclamation.

But the Retama, P. aculeata,  has also proven invasive and a problem plant for many areas where it has been introduced.  Australia has banned it entirely because it’s become such a noxious weed. Retama escapes from controlled cultivation, probably by birds which spread the seeds, and becomes weedy in natural ranges.

I think this is a good reminder that where a plant is native, there are controls and conditions to keep the plant “in check.”  The Retama in my garden belongs here, in my garden.   It is a native plant to the region in which I live and garden, and a fine addition for its beauty, its water-wise characteristics, and  its ability to thrive in the hot summers. Additionally, it’s also a great wildlife plant.   But in places where it is introduced and has invaded, problems arise.  Retama spreads and grows rapidly, forming thickets and native plants cannot complete, thus the Retama is responsible for declining flora diversity. It causes problems with livestock (because of its thorns) and spreads profusely when there is plenty of soil moisture.

Because we love of plants, gardeners should be cognizant of how our plant choices impact our home region.  When we can do, we should choose native plants and wildflowers to help beautify our world and assist wildlife, but we should also encourage and lobby nursery businesses to supply native plants so that we have choices.  When we totally fall in love with a non-native plant and must have it–and that’s happened to all of us–we should learn about the plant and take care that it isn’t invasive and won’t harm our local environment.

Thanking Lucy again for Tree Following–pop over and learn about trees from all over the world.  Enjoy!