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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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Wednesday - April 04, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Spring blooming Acacia farnsiana in Austin
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

I've been seeing a large shrub, possibly tree, around Austin this spring - and it is covered is small ball-like orangish-yellow blooms - very tightly covered in these blooms. From the car, it looks sort of like a retama type form, but smaller leafed and a tighter, thicker growth habit. Is it somethingi native or an invasive species. I've seen it at the hike and bike trail and just around town.

ANSWER:

The plant you are seeing is Huisache Acacia farnesiana (sweet acacia), a member of the pea family (Fabaceae) which is distributed in the US across the contiguous southern states from Florida to California, and into Mexico. It is described as a tree/ shrub growing to 15-20 feet.

The Retama, Parkinsonia aculeata (Jerusalem thorn), that you mention is also a member of the pea family with yellow flowers, but as you can see from the pictures, the structure of the flowers and stems is different.

 

From the Image Gallery


Huisache
Vachellia farnesiana

Huisache
Vachellia farnesiana

Retama
Parkinsonia aculeata

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