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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - March 23, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Trees
Title: Distinguish between Huisache and Goldenball Leadtree
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

How do you distinguish between Huisache (Acacia farnesiana) and Goldenball Leadtree (Leucaena retusa)? Thanks!

ANSWER:

We found a couple websites that give very good descriptions of the structure of both, for similarities and differences. Acacia farnesiana (sweet acacia) is covered in this Forest Service Department of Agriculture article. Leucaena retusa (littleleaf leadtree) has information from the same source.

Similarities: Both have feathery, finely-divided leaflets, round, spreading, open crown, alternate bipinnately compound leaves, leaflet margin entire, venation pinnate, leaflet blade length less than 2", with no showy Fall color.

Differences: Acacia farnesiana (sweet acacia) is semi-evergreen, has slightly rough stems that are chocolate brown or gray, linear shape leaves, leaf color green, and thorns.

Leucaena retusa (littleleaf leadtree) is evergreen, has elliptic (oval) leaves, bark that is cinnamon-colored and flaky, leaf color blue-green to bright green and no thorns.

There are other differences in when and how each plant blooms, but I think the thorns are the clincher. Here is a page of images of the Huisache and a page of images of the Goldenball Leadtree.


Acacia farnesiana

Acacia farnesiana

Leucaena retusa

Leucaena retusa

 

 

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