September 2015 Tree Following: The Next Generation

Summer retains its strangle, I mean, hold, on Central Texas, but there are promises of cooler and wetter weather in the forecast.  Today is the 7th of the month and time to join with British blogger Lucy at Loose and Leafy and her informative Tree Following meme, which is all about trees from many spaces and places.

My Retama, Parkinsonia aculeata,  remains beautiful and cooling after the harsh Texas July and August.

A tough native tree, Retama chuckles at day-in/day-out 100-plus degree temperatures and months (almost three) with no rain.

Beautiful flowers are  blooming, though mostly at the top of the tree as is normative for my particular specimen because it’s not planted in full sun.

These flowers have been pollinated and that’s obvious because of the orange “honey” petal–the one that turns from yellow to orange after a visit from a bee, butterfly, moth, or hummingbird.

With near constant breezes, I’ve found it difficult to capture clear shots of the cheery Retama blooms, but yesterday morning was quiet and calm and the flowers posed well when I said “smile!” and snapped some photos.

The foliage remains lush, but dainty and delicate in late summer.

This tree endures and thrives.

What is new this month, is the discovery of a Retama offspring.

This tiny guy is about 15 feet away from the tree and has suffered a bit of sunburn. I rarely spot seedlings from my tree, though plenty of seeds are produced throughout the long blooming season.  My hope is that birds carry them off to distant gardens to spread the Retama joy.  I’ve offered the seedling to some fellow gardeners and it is now promised to a neighbor. I hope it grows as well for her as its parent has for me. There was a second seedling, a couple of inches taller and located nearer to the tree, but I wasn’t able to find it when I began the photography for this post.  I doubt it succumbed to the heat and dry of the latter half of summer, after all, that’s when Retama struts its stuff best, but maybe the dog stepped on it and broke it.

That’s right, whenever something goes wrong with a plant, blame it on the dog.

I’m toward the end of my Year Of The Retama–in November I’ll choose  a new tree to learn and write about.

For now, though, here ’tis.

Green, gorgeous, tough and Texan.

Tree Following: August Oven, 2015

It’s toasty out there!  The hot August sun beats down on me and mine, but most of my tough Texas natives stand brave against the 100 F+ temperatures this hot August. Included in that set of stalwart botanical steadies is my 2015 Tree Following choice, the beautiful Retama, Parkinsonia aculeata.  It’s still green,

…lacy and lush.

Juxtaposed with the Mountain Laurel, Retama’s fine foliage is brilliant,

…and against the Shumard Oak’s more substantial leaves,

…it softens, though I must admit that I prefer the shade of the Oak to that piddling amount of cover provided by the Retama.

Against the big Texas sky, Retama foliage is stunning.

The foliage contrasts with summer

And sometimes, reflects it.

The foliage is fresh and verdant and that is welcome in late summer.

Clusters of Retama flowers are visited by bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. All the blooms are now situated at the top of the tree, whereas previously, individual blooms were scattered along the lower branches.  Because the flowers are high on the tree and summer breezes blow, I’ve had a difficult time getting adequate close-up shots.

In the tangle of sunny yellow are freckles of red/orange “honey” petals, typical of each individual flower.  When the bloom first opens, the honey petal is not yellow, but a paler version of that orangey-red.  Once the flower is pollinated, that “honey” petal turns a deeper color and curls backward.  Retama flowers are a colorful two-fer gift.

As bloom time wanes, the seedpods are growing larger, maturing, and turning brown. That is probably the biggest change since my Tree Following July report.

Retama seeds are edible and also used as fodder for farm animals in parts of the world where this tree grows, whether in its native region (southwest US, Mexico and parts of South America) or where it is an introduced and often, an invasive species.  The seed pods will continue developing as fall approaches, eventually dropping to the ground. While this tree has become a problem plant in some areas of the world (Australia has banned it), I’ve rarely had seedlings develop from my tree.  When seedlings have germinated and grown, they don’t make it through winters. That said, out in open areas of south and west Texas, Retama must germinate well and often enough because there are plenty of Retama trees which dot and decorate the rugged Texas landscape and adjacent highways.

Until September…please visit Lucy at Loose and Leafy to learn about other trees being followed for August.

Love your trees!!

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.