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Growing Huisache Trees in Southern Landscaping: Beauty and the Beast

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include art, traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

Huisache tree blooming in our neighborhood

Huisache tree blooming in our neighborhood

Legume Family Origins

The huisache has other common names such as 'weesatch' and 'sweet acacia.' It comes from the legume family Fabaceae which also includes peas and even bluebonnets. In our neighborhood is a singular specimen tree of great beauty! Most people notice it because of the spectacular golden hue of its fluffy-looking pompon-like yellow blossoms when in bloom. Depending upon the weather conditions each year, the blooming period can start as early as December and last until sometime in April to give outer parameters.

We see some other shrub-like smaller specimens along roadsides in our area that undoubtedly were spread by bird droppings. That is why I used the "beauty and the beast" reference in this article's title. There are pluses and minuses to this perennial plant.

Huisache tree blossoms against a bright blue sky

Huisache tree blossoms against a bright blue sky

Habitat and Growing Conditions

Since this is a warm-weather perennial, it is found in the United States in the southern states from lower portions of California across to Florida. A few species are in Louisiana. You can also see this specimen in Mexico, the Caribbean, South America, southern parts of Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, and many islands in southern regions, to give some examples.

Huisache can grow in less than desirable soils, making it possible to thrive where other plants cannot live. Like other legumes, nitrogen is added back into the earth from the growing of these plants. As an example, much of Houston contains clay soils that do not drain well. It can also grow in sandy soils, not nutrient-dense.

The most limiting factor is that it needs warm sunny conditions and a modicum of rainfall. Once established, it is very drought resistant.

The ornamental specimen tree in our neighborhood is probably a good 30 feet tall and almost as wide. Those growing more like woody shrubs can attain heights of around 15 feet tall and wide.

Pros

Obviously, the beauty of the huisache tree when in bloom cannot be denied. At other times of the year, the compounded grey to green-colored leaves give it a feathery appearance with leaves fluttering in the wind. The leaves are deciduous if exposed to a hard frost or freezing weather. Otherwise, they remain on the tree year-round in warmer climes.

It is a thorny bush or tree with thorns that can get as long as 2 inches. These thorns are what protect wildlife from predators and attract birds like quail doves to build their nests.

The mature dark brown seed pods that can grow up to three inches long provide a bit of sustenance for deer, wild hogs, small mammals, and birds.

Pollinators like butterflies, bees, and birds enjoy visiting the fragrant flowers and gather nectar and spread pollen to other plants.

The quick growing huisache can be used in xeriscape landscape designs because of its drought resistance. It can be trimmed up as a beautiful tree or used as dense hedging.

"She turned to the sunlight And shook her yellow head, And whispered to her neighbor: "Winter is dead."

— A. A. Milne

Cons

In South Texas, where there are many cattle ranches, the huisache is an aggressive, invasive species. While the seeds and pods contain some nourishment, it is a relatively poor source with low protein amounts and is mostly indigestible. The seeds quickly germinate in any disturbed ground because of bird and animal droppings, thereby making the grazing pastures less desirable.

Constant reapplications of herbicides are about the only way to manage the spread of these spiny and thorny plants when young. Sometimes a controlled fire is used to eliminate large patches of young huisache shrubs—the use of heavy equipment can be used to eliminate larger specimens.

Uses of Huisache

Back in the 19th century, manufacturers in France made perfume from the flowers. The tree's bark became useful for the making of dyes, inks, and tanning animal skins. Pottery makers found some use in this plant's pods to make a glue-like substance to mend broken pieces of pottery. Firewood could be collected and used, and like almost all plants, some people found some medicinal values.

Huisache tree in the greenbelt area of our subdivision

Huisache tree in the greenbelt area of our subdivision

Sources:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Peggy Woods

Comments

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 20, 2020:

Hi Brenda,

I am glad to be able to introduce the huisache tree to you. I know that I always enjoy learning about plants with which I am unfamiliar. Thanks for your comment. By the way, maple trees are gorgeous!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 20, 2020:

Hi Bill,

Mimosa trees also grow down here. We have an interesting mix of vegetation that thrives here. Thanks for your visit and comment.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on October 20, 2020:

Peggy,

I have never heard of this tree before but it is beautiful.

The fact that it used to be used for perfume is intriguing.

I guess trees can have different purposes as you stated inks and dyes. Who would have ever thought?

I love a tree that is a bit different from our normal maples.

Thanks for the read.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on October 20, 2020:

Very interesting, Peggy. We have a mimosa tree in our yard that has pink blossoms and looks similar to the huisache tree. Sounds like the huisache tree would not do well here with our winters, which is probably why I am not familiar with it. Great hub.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 20, 2020:

Hi Diana Carol,

I am pleased that you enjoyed reading this article and viewing my photos of the huisache trees when in bloom. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 20, 2020:

Hi Linda,

I am pleased that you enjoyed learning about this shrub/tree, and also liked the quote. It seemed an appropriate one to reflect the pretty flower and the passing of winter.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 20, 2020:

Hi John,

It is alternately called acacia over here also. It is interesting that the huisache (or acacia) has all of those different names in Australia. No matter the name, it is a beauty when in bloom.

Diana Carol Abrahamson from Somerset West on October 20, 2020:

This tree is so beautiful and has many uses. Adding nitrogen to the clay soil, is an advantage, too. Easy to grow by the sounds of it. Thanks for sharing. Great article. Love the photos too, Peggy :)

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 19, 2020:

Thank you for sharing the facts about this tree. It sounds like an interesting plant. The flowers are beautiful! I love the quote from A.A. Milne that you've included.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on October 19, 2020:

I knew this being an Acacia and with the yellow flowers was a type of rattle so Iooked it up. In Australia it is called by various names including: Mimosa Bush or Mimosa Wattle, Farnese Wttle and Perfumed Wattle. Interesting article, Peg.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 19, 2020:

Hi Rebecca,

If you ever saw a huisache shrub or tree in bloom, I am sure you would remember it. Thanks for your visit and comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 19, 2020:

Hi Pamela,

The climate is right in parts of Florida for the huisache to grow. Look for some bright yellow blooming trees in the early spring to see if there are any in your area.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 19, 2020:

Hi Mary,

I agree with you that those yellow flowers against that blue sky makes for a nice contrast. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 19, 2020:

Hi Liz,

I had intended to write about this tree a long time ago. It is a beauty when it is in bloom.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 19, 2020:

Hi Liza,

The tiny leaves of the huisache are green, and only the blossoms are yellow. I do not believe that this plant grows as far north as Utah. Thanks for the visit and comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 19, 2020:

Hi Mary,

Thorny bushes do have their place for certain uses, such as natural barriers.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on October 19, 2020:

They're gorgeous. I don't think we have them here. Great photos, too.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 19, 2020:

This is new information for me. I think the pompom-like blossoms are beautiful. I love anything to do with nature. This is a very interesting article.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 19, 2020:

The flowers are beautiful. On that blue sky, the yellow stands out.

Liz Westwood from UK on October 19, 2020:

This is an interesting and well-illustrated article. I had not heard of the Huisache tree until I read your informative article.

Liza from USA on October 19, 2020:

Thanks for sharing the detailed information about the Huisache trees, Peggy. The one on top looks so beautiful! I love trees with yellow leaves and yellow flowers. However, I'm not sure if I have seen the Huisache tree in Utah but, I'm going to find out! Thank you for sharing an informative article.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on October 19, 2020:

I don't think I've seen this before. It is pretty but I can relate to it growing where it isn't wanted. I get birds and bats dropping seeds of various plants everywhere.

I've just checked and it may be in this area of Brazil. I will now know what to look for. If a thorny plant grows close to a fence line, I tend to leave it as a natural barrier.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 19, 2020:

Hi Bill,

According to maps of where this tree grows, I believe that you live too far north. Wishing you a happy Monday also!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 19, 2020:

Hi Sarah,

I am pleased that you enjoyed reading this post. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 19, 2020:

Hi Kalpana,

If you ever saw a huisache shrub or tree in bloom, I am sure you would remember it. Thanks for your visit and comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 19, 2020:

Hi Lorna,

I'm glad you enjoyed reading this article. We always enjoy that massive tree in our subdivision every year when it is in bloom.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 19, 2020:

Hi FlourishAnyway,

In particular, Cattle ranchers would just as soon never see these trees or shrubs growing on their land because of how invasive this plant can become. The colors, when in bloom, are so pretty.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 19, 2020:

Hi Chitrangada,

Even though the trees do not grow in your area, it is always fun learning about different varieties of plants. Every year we look forward to the colorful blooms of the huisache shrubs and trees in our area. I appreciate your comment.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 19, 2020:

That tree wouldn't last a month in Olympia. lol Beautiful tree, though, so thanks for the pics and information, my friend. Happy Monday to you!

Sarah on October 19, 2020:

This is a great and informative post. Thank you.

Kalpana Iyer from India on October 19, 2020:

I have never seen a Huisache tree in India. Or maybe they were there, and I just did not know what they were called. Looks lovely!

Lorna Lamon on October 19, 2020:

Thank you for this detailed article Peggy. The blossoms are beautiful and I can just imagine them in a hedgerow. It certainly had a variety of uses in the past, however, I can understand why the cattle ranchers would have to keep it under control. The photos are lovely and the blossom's do look like pompom's and are so colourful. Great article.

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 18, 2020:

Beauty and the Beast is appropriate given what you have described. It surely is lovely and protects the birds and small mammals but oh, those invasive species!

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on October 18, 2020:

Thanks for sharing the detailed information about the Huisache trees. I have seen these in pictures, but they don't grow around here. They look beautiful and I like the color. Besides that, it's good to know that they are used in making many different things.

Thank you for sharing this interesting and informative article.