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Ungnadia speciosa (Mexican buckeye) | NPIN
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Ungnadia speciosa (Mexican buckeye)
Marcus, Joseph A.

Ungnadia speciosa

Ungnadia speciosa Endl.

Mexican buckeye

Sapindaceae (Soapberry Family)

Synonym(s):

USDA Symbol: UNSP

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Mexican-buckeye, an 8-12 ft., deciduous tree, can reach 30 ft. in height. It is often multi-trunked with with light gray to brown bark, smooth on young branches, becoming fissured with age. Leaves up to 12 inches long, with a central axis supporting 2 to 6 paired leaflets and a terminal one; leaflets up to 5 inches long, ovate to narrower with an elongate tip, rounded base, and serrate margins. Pinnate foliage turns golden yellow in fall. Clusters of bright-pink, fragrant flowers appear before or with the leaves from the axils of the previous season. Fruit distinctive, a light reddish brown when ripe, 3 lobed capsule containing 1 to 3 dark brown to black, shiny seeds 1/2 inch in diameter, the walls of the capsule often persisting through the winter, seeds poisonous.

From a distance the plants in full flower resemble redbuds or peaches. The sweetish but poisonous seeds are sometimes used by children as marbles. Livestock seldom browse the toxic foliage, but bees produce fragrant honey from the flowers. Although not a true buckeye, it is so called because of the similar large capsules and seeds. This distinct plant, alone in its genus, commemorates Baron Ferdinand von Ungnad, Austrian ambassador at Constantinople, who introduced the Horsechestnut into western Europe in 1576.

 

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Pinnate
Leaf Shape: Ovate
Leaf Margin: Serrate
Size Notes: 12-30
Fruit:
Size Class: 12-36 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Pink
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun

Distribution

USA: NM , TX
Native Distribution: TX & s. NM to n.e. Mex.
Native Habitat: Rocky canyons & ridges. Common in rocky areas in canyons and on slopes and ridges in South, Central, and West Texas, east to Dallas county.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Rocky soils. Rocky, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Caliche type Limestone-based
Conditions Comments: Mexican buckeye produces an opulent show when it blooms. The foliage turns a clear yellow in the fall. Foliage, flowers and dense branching makes this species an outstanding small specimen tree or tall background shrub. Rapid-growing, drought-resistant, resistant to cotton root rot. Prune to encourage a single trunk if desired. Growth characteristics of this tree vary greatly with site. It has mildly poisonous seedpods.

Benefit

Use Ornamental: Showy, Aromatic, Accent shrub, Fall conspicuous, Understory tree, Attractive, Blooms ornamental
Use Wildlife: Nectar-bees, Nectar-butterflies, Nectar-moths, Seeds-granivorous birds, Seeds-Small mammals.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Butterflies
Larval Host: Henrys Elfin butterfly
Nectar Source: yes
Deer Resistant: High

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Ungnadia speciosa is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Elf
(Microtia elva)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Propagation

Propagation Material: Seeds
Description: Best sown fresh. Untreated seed will germinate in three weeks. Germination is best in warm soil. Field plant or use deep containers to accomodate a long initial root.
Seed Collection: Gather seed in August through October when capsules turn dark reddish brown and begin to open. Seeds should be shiny black and hard. Remove seeds from pods and air dry a few days before storing in bags or ventilated containers at room temperature. For longer storage, place paper bags in the refrigerator. They do not store well for long periods of time.
Seed Treatment: Sow fresh seed
Commercially Avail: yes

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From the National Suppliers Directory

According to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:

Wrights Nursery - Briggs, TX
Hill Country Natives - Leander, TX
Far South Wholesale Nursery - Austin, TX

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Fredericksburg Nature Center - Fredericksburg, TX
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX
Texas Discovery Gardens - Dallas, TX
Sibley Nature Center - Midland, TX
Brackenridge Field Laboratory - Austin, TX
Native Plant Society of Texas - Fredericksburg, TX
Nueces River Authority - Uvalde, TX
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX
NPSOT - Fredericksburg Chapter - Fredericksburg, TX
Texas Master Naturalists - Lost Pines Chapter - Bastrop, TX
NPSOT - Austin Chapter - Austin, TX
Jacob's Well Natural Area - Wimberley, TX
NPSOT - Williamson County Chapter - Georgetown, TX

Herbarium Specimen(s)

NPSOT 0603 Collected May 13, 1992 in Medina County by Harry Cliffe

1 specimen(s) available in the Digital Herbarium

Bibliography

Bibref 355 - Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest (1991) Miller, G. O.
Bibref 354 - Native & Naturalized Woody Plants of Austin & the Hill Country (1981) Lynch, D.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 248 - Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide (1984) Loughmiller, C. & L. Loughmiller
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender
Bibref 297 - Trees of Central Texas (1984) Vines, Robert A.
Bibref 286 - Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country (1989) Enquist, M.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Recommended Species Lists

Find native plant species by state. Each list contains commercially available species suitable for gardens and planned landscapes. Once you have selected a collection, you can browse the collection or search within it using the combination search.

View Recommended Species page

Additional resources

USDA: Find Ungnadia speciosa in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Ungnadia speciosa in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Ungnadia speciosa

Metadata

Record Modified: 2009-04-23
Research By: TWC Staff, GAP

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