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Talking Trees

If only trees could talk they could tell us so much about our history. We invite you to take a walk in the woods and use your senses to hear their stories.

The native trees of the Rio Grande provide many advantages. They are designed to tolerate our weather, soil and pests. They are great for xeriscaping as they require little water. And they provide fruit and berries preferred by our birds and wildlife. Plant native trees and help restore the vanishing natural landscape of the Rio Grande Valley. Great cities provide wooded parklands for people to breathe and enjoy spacious green!

Take a walk in the woods at Quinta Mazatlan and meet some of the remarkable trees of the Rio Grande Valley.

30 Native Trees of the Rio Grande Valley

Blackbrush Acacia (Chapparo Prieto)

Acacia rigidula Legume

Poor Man's Ebony. Similar to ebony. Shorter and multi-stemmed. Dark leaflets. Creamy white elongate bloom spikes. Paired white spines at each node. Nectar, leaves and seeds eaten by wildlife. Drought tolerant, requires good drainage. Slow growing.

Huisache

Acacia smallii Legume

Medium size tree armed with long, paired straight spines at base of leaves. Fragrant golden puffball blooms signal spring. (Cultivated in Europe for perfumes.) Deciduous. Tolerates poor drainage and all soil types. Favored by Twig Girdler Beetle and Leaf-Cutter Ants. Excellent nest sites. Browsed by wildlife. Pollen used by bees. Medicinal use. Bark used for dying skins. Shiny, hard black seedpods.

Wright Acacia(Una de gato)

Acacia wrightii Legume

Thorny tree less than 20' in height, with low-hanging branches. Creamy catkin blooms provide excellent butterfly nectar in spring and fall. Translucent, paper-thin constricted seedpods. (Similar: Acacia greggi, with harder seedpods.)

Bluewing Adelia

Adelia vaseyii Euphorbia

Host plant for: Mexican Bluewing. Upright, slender, multi-trunked. Thornless. Dry-deciduous. Tiny flowers after rainfall. Parrots eat the seed. Occurs on high ground near arroyos and resacas. Identify by fuzzy nodes on stems.

Coma (Chicle, Saffron Plum)

Bumelia celastrina Sapodilla

Piercing thorns tip each branch. Strongly-scented spring blooms. Small, glossy, leathery leaves sometimes curved like a comma (coma). Leaves browsed by deer. Tasty blue-black fruit April thru June. Sticky white exudate (Chicle) when fully ripe. Wide range of soils: sandy loam, gravelly hills, salt marshes and clay.  

Palo Blanco (Sugar Hackberry)

Celtis laevigata Elm

Light grey trunk (palo blanco), conspicuously warty and ridged. Fast-growing, thornless. Short-lived, shallow root system. Excellent shade. Develops cavities, used by wildlife. Edible fruits. Leaf buds relished by parrots, chachalaca. Leaves eaten by browsers. Nest site. Butterfly host plant: Emperors, Question Mark, Snout. Butterflies also drink the sap.

Granjeno (Spiny Hackberry)

Celtis llida Elm

Zigzag thorny branches form arched passageways through brush. Orange fruit tastes like melon, appearing soon after rain. Larval food plant for: Princell Leilia, Snout, Emperor, Red-Bordered Metalmark. Seeds readily. Use by wildlife includes grazing and nesting (preferred by the Verdin, a tiny yellow faced bird).

Brasil (Capul Negro, Capulin)

Condalia hookeri Buckthorn

Thorn-tipped branches. Tiny, tasty blue-black fruits eaten by humans, mammals and birds. Leaves browsed by deer. Lime-green foliage can be pruned into hedges. Easily-trimmed to control height. Great nesting site. Found in west, central and south Texas. (Beware of larger blue-black fruit on poisonous Coyotillo.) Host plant: American Snout.

Anacahuita (Texas Wild Olive)

Cordia boissieri Borage

Long-lived thornless, gnarly tree. Long-lived, drought tolerant, freeze resistant. Tubular white blooms (after rain) adored by butterflies and hummingbirds. High blooms are protective for nectaring hummers. Edible (not tasty) fruit.  US range is South Texas. State flower of Nuevo Leon, Mexico. Much-used in landscaping.

Chapote (Texas Persimmon)

Diospyros texana Ebenaceae

Diospyros means fruit of the gods. Edible, tasty fruit ripens to blue-black. Relished by many mammals and birds. Beautiful old smooth trunks. Glossy dark green leaves have revolute (curled-under) margins (edges). Abundant in the Edwards Plateau. Small tree, requires good drainage. Excellent for small spaces like patios. Root damage potential is low. Height is 40 ft. Heavy wood readily absorbs moisture: salt shakers, tool handles. Black heartwood with clear yellow sapwood.

Ebano (Texas Ebony, Ape's Earring)

Pithecellobium ebano Legume

Thorny, zigzag branches. Multi-trunk tree. Dark green evergreen foliage. High nitrogen leaf litter and seeds. Creamy fragrant flowers in spring or after rainfall. Drought tolerant. Range: south of Aransas Bay. Human use includes coffee substitute, sweetening agent, boiled or baked beans, leaf litter produces excellent humus. Host plant: Sulfurs, Cassius Blue, Coyote Skipper.

Anaqua (Sugarberry, Sandpaper Tree)

Ehretia anacua Borage

Long-lived. Sandpapery dark green leaves provide dense shade. Clustered, aromatic tubular flowers appear from June through October, providing nectar for many insects. Sweet orange berries adored by birds and mammals. Moderate growth rate produces strength and wind resistance.

Coral Bean (Colorin)

Erythrina herbacea var. arborea Legume

Re-curved thorns on trunk and branches. Small tree, drooping branches protect wildlife. Coral bloom spike attracts hummingbirds. Bark, stems and leaves are POISONOUS to fish, wildlife and humans. Large, pretty leaves. Medium drainage, loamy or sandy soil. Easily propagated from seed. Range extends northward to Corpus Christi. Attractive black pods open to reveal coral beans.

Esenbeckia (Limoncillo, Jopoy)

Esenbeckia runyonii Citrus

Extremely RARE. U.S. range is Cameron county. Trifoliate leathery, lustrous, lemon-scented leaves. Smooth grey bark. Wide canopy. Difficult to cultivate. Good drainage is required.

Fresno (Rio Grande Ash)

Fraxinus berlandieriana Olive

Winter deciduous. Inconspicuous blooms appear before leaf emergence. Fast growing, thorn less shade tree, easily damaged by strong winds. Found along streams, rivers, resacas. Tolerates heat and a range of soil types. Much-used in landscaping. Nest site. Leaf buds relished by chachalaca and parrots. Host plant: 2-tailed Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak.

Guayacan (Iron-Wood)

Guiacum angustifolium Caltrop

Numerous narrow leaflets reminiscent of short-leaved conifers. Slow-growing, high-nitrogen leaves are extensively browsed by wildlife. Limited to southern half of Texas. Drought-tolerant. Aromatic purple flowers follow rain. Shiny red fruit. Excellent nectar for honey. Host plant for Lyside Sulfur and Gray Hairstreak. Outdoor Christmas Tree in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. 

Tepeguaje (Lead Tree)

Leucaena pulverulenta Legume

Large thornless shade tree. Fast growing, short-lived. Brittle branches. Susceptible to freeze damage. Favorite of Twig-Girdler beetle. Adapted to various soils, tolerates poor drainage. Occurs near resacas or streams. Susceptible to freeze damage. Sweet-scented creamy puffball blooms. Frequented by insect-eating birds. Nest site. Host plant: Mimosa Yellow. Similar in appearance to invasive Popinac.

Retama (Jerusalem Thorn)

Parkinsonia aculeata Legume

Weedy fast-growing tree with drooping foliage. Yellow blooms and green, thorny branches are similar to Palo Verde. Older bark turns brown. Blooms provide butterfly nectar in spring & summer. Edible seeds. Host plant: Clench's Greenstreak. Tolerates flooding. High-nitrogen foliage and seeds. Young girls braid the long leaves into bracelets, etc.

Guamuchil (Monkeypod )

Pithecellobium dulce Legume

Spiny trunk, bipinnate with 2 leaflets. Long, aromatic coiled blooms. Pod with edible pulp and black seed. Propagated by birds. Folk medicine use. Widespread in Mexico, native to central and South America. Introduced around the globe. Host plant for Pixie. Fruit eaten raw or as beverage.

Tenaza

Pithecellobium pallens Legume

Heat-sensitive leaflets fold up: Tenaza Adaptable to many soils. Rapid, upright growth. Paired thorns on trunks. Soft shade. Creamy shaving-brush blooms appear after rain. Persistent seedpods. Northern range: Corpus Christi. Excellent nest site. Seeds germinate readily. Great for corners away from traffic.

Honey Mesquite

Prosopsis glandulosa Legume

Thorny, twisting multi-trunk, winter deciduous drooping foliage, spring flowers (yellowish spikes) provide spring and summer nectar. Edible persistent seedpods (sweet pulp, pods ground into flour when dry). Common in Texas, easily grown except in salty soils. Extremely drought-tolerant. Host plant: Marine Blue, Long-Tailed Skipper.

Encino (Live Oak)

Quercus virginiana Beech

Acorns eaten by many animal species. Old leaves shed in spring as new foliage appears. Gorgeous, thornless shade tree. Fast growing, long-lived. Tolerates salt, compaction and drought. Good drainage preferred. U.S. range is southern coastal states where surface moisture is abundant. Browsers eat leaves, mammals and birds eat the acorns. Nest site. Produces oak mottes, known to be used by ocelots. Host plant: Horace's Duskywing, Oak Hairstreak.

Colima (Lime Prickly Ash, Una de Gato)

Zanthoxylum fagara Citrus

Lime-scented, prickly, fast-growing, multi-trunked. Leaf has wide rachis. Re-curved thorns are prolific. Excellent nesting site. Seeds eaten by birds. Suggested for security hedge. Host plant: Giant Swallowtail.

Sierra Madre Torchwood

ZZ Amyris madrensis Citrus

A slow growing native. Growth is upright with evergreen, glossy leaves. Beautiful grey trunk with citrus-scented foliage. A butterfly host plant for the Giant Swallowtail. Historic use for torches in midnight processions

Sabal Palm (Palma de Micheros)

Sabal texana Palm

Slow growing, frost resistant. Our only native palm extended 80 miles west from the Gulf in the 1800's. Logged out for human needs. Long, thornless petioles. Leaf has re-curved rachis. Orioles construct nest beneath this curve. Preferred roosting for many critters.  Date-like fruit (micheros) eaten by coyotes. Deep root system is difficult to transplant. Best to germinate the seed in place. Similar, less robust: Florida Sabal.

Jaboncillo (Soapberry - Toxic Fruit)

Sapindus saponaria Soapberry

Medium to large shade tree. Wide range in the south. Occurs along streams and woodland edges. Cultivated since 1900. Fall foliage is yellow. Massive blooms in spring. Butterfly nectar and host plant. TOXIC, marble-like fall-ripening fruit stuns fish, produces soap. Wood used in basket making. Contact with fruit may cause ALLERGIC reaction.

Salvadora (Potato Tree)

Solanum erianthum Nightshade

Fast, brittle growth, colony-forming. Large, smelly, fuzzy foliage useful for cleaning. Thornless! Non-showy blooms, yellow "potato" fruits (& leaves!) eaten by birds. (may be TOXIC to humans.) Range: near resacas, ditches, south of Kenedy county. Easily grown with ample water. Excellent choice for bird watchers!

Mescal Bean (Texas Mountain Laurel)

Sophora secundiflora TOXIC Legume

Glossy evergreen foliage. Beautiful ornamental tree. Large, clustered, grape-scented spring blooms attract bees and butterflies. Persistent red seeds and glossy leaves are TOXIC. Seeds induce intoxication. Salt-tolerant, requires good drainage. Hardy to 10° F. Occurs in Cameron County near resaca banks and along the Arroyo Colorado. Much-used in landscaping.

Ahuehuetl (Sabino, Montezuma Cypress)

Taxodium mucronatum  Taxodiaceae

RARE. Occurs near water. Excellent, robust shade tree. Almost evergreen, unlike the Bald Cypress. Enormous, with 2000 yr. lifespan. Found near water. Difficult to establish and propagate. Requires water year-round. Moderately salt-tolerant. Excellent roost for water birds.

Olmo (Cedar Elm)

Ulmus crassifolia Elm

Thornless. Straight trunk up to 80 ft. Evergreen in mild winters. Dark green leaves. Fast growing and hardy. Tolerates many soil types, drought tolerant. Found near riverbanks. Excellent nest site. Good seed production. Hostplant: Question Mark Butterfly.

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600 Sunset Drive
McAllen, TX 78504

(956) 681-3370

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