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Thursday - July 07, 2016

From: Florence, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Native Texas Trees from Seed for Fence Line
Answered by: Anne Van Nest


My parents have an unirrigated fence line on their property that they want to grow evergreen screening plants along. Given the difficulty of establishing nursery grown plants in such an unirrigated area, they had the idea of taking the long route by planting native tree seeds along the fence. This obviously would take a bit longer than establishing the nursery sized plants, but are there any decent screening trees/bushes that can be easily propagated by seeds? My parents live on 40 acres of escarpment live oak, juniper, cedar elm, kidneywood, and persimmon and they have plenty of Texas mountain laurel planted around their house so collecting seeds from these would be the easiest. Are there resources for seeds of other texas natives that would be relatively fast growing and hopefully evergreen?


Sorry for the delay in answering your question. One suggestion is to consult with Seeds of Texas. They are a family business in Hill Country that supplies native Texas seeds (and detailed germination instructions) for mail orders. They hand collect their seed from the trees in their native habitat in Texas. These seeds should produce good drought tolerant, tough plants for your fence line.

Some flowering tree seeds that are currently available include:

Eve's Necklace (Styphnologium affine), Eve's necklace, a 15-30 ft., spineless shrub or tree, bears light-green, graceful leaflets and fragrant, pink, wisteria-like blooms. A tall shrub or small tree with thin, scaly, reddish brown bark on older wood and with smooth twigs. On limestone slopes, in valley bottoms, and on soils underlain with limestone in upland situations. Seeds reputed to be poisonous. Leaves divided into 6 to 8 pairs of leaflets and a terminal one on an axis up to 9 inches long, leaflets elliptic to oval, averaging an inch long, with a rounded, indented, or pointed tip, smooth margins, and a rounded or tapered base. Flowers fragrant, white tinged with rose, 1/2 inch long, arranged along axes up to 6 inches long, appearing in March and April. Fruit a long, rounded pod, constricted between the seeds, often with only 1 or a few seeds, the swollen part of the pod black, and the constrictions covered with gray hairs.

Evergreen sumac (Rhus virens),

Evergreen sumac is a shrub or small tree, from 8-12 ft. in height with spreading branches. Its shiny, evergreen, pinnate foliage is tinged with pink in early spring and maroon after frost. Leaves are alternate, 2–5 1/2 inches long, with 5–9 fleshy leaflets on stiff stems. The 5-petaled, inconspicuous, greenish or white flowers grow in clusters 1–2 inches long at the end of stout branches. When the fruit matures in mid-September it is red, broader than long, and covered with fine hair.

Evergreen sumac can be used to make a nice, thick hedge or screen, but can grow tree-like with a long, straight trunk. Only female plants produce flowers and berries. It is fast growing, generally insect and disease-free, and drought-tolerant. Not a true evergreen – leaves are green through the winter, then are dropped, to be replaced within a week with a new crop.

Flameleaf sumac (Rhus lanceolata),

Prairie Flameleaf Sumac is a thicket-forming, small, deciduous tree to 30 ft. in height, but usually no taller than 20 ft. Pyramidal panicles of red, fall fruit follow white, summer blossoms. Pinnately compound foliage becomes vivid red or orange in fall.

Native from southern Oklahoma through north, central, and west Texas to New Mexico and south to Puebla in central Mexico, the limestone-loving Prairie Flameleaf Sumac is relatively fast growing, generally pest- and disease-free, and heat-, cold-, and drought-tolerant. Flameleaf is a perfect description of this trees outstanding, orange and red, autumn foliage, but its pale trunk and branches, green summer leaves, and pyramidal clusters of red fall fruit are also noteworthy. Though it may sucker from the base to form a colony, it is not as likely to aggressively colonize as the more easterly Shining Sumac (Rhus copallinum). Like the very different-looking Evergreen Sumac (Rhus virens), Prairie Flameleaf Sumac produces berries that, when soaked in water, make a tart, tasty, high-Vitamin C tea.

Mexican buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa),

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.

Texas ebony (Ebenopsis ebano),

Texas-ebony is a 25-30 ft. shrub or tree with a rounded, dense crown. Dark green, twice-pinnate leaves are borne from spiny branches. White blooms are followed by 4-6 in. seed pods which persist through the winter.

Thornless Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos),

The honey-locust is a 30-75 ft. tree with a comparable spread and a delicate and sophisticated silhouette. Feathery, yellow-green, pinnately compound leaves provide filtered shade. Fall color is yellow. Greenish flowers are not conspicuous, but the twisted seed pods change from red-green to maroon-brown as they mature. Pods 30-45 cm long, curled, persist into winter. Most wild trees are not thornless; the long, needle-sharp thorns are extremely vicious and not suitable for a domestic landscape.

Livestock and wildlife consume the honeylike, sweet pulp of the pods. Honey Locust is easily recognized by the large, branched spines on the trunk; thornless forms, however, are common in cultivation and are sometimes found wild. The spines have been used as pins. This hardy species is popular for shade, hedges, and attracting wildlife.

Wafer ash (Ptelea trifoliata),

Aromatic shrub or small tree with a rounded crown. The trunk is slender and crooked, bearing interwoven, ascending branches. Bark, crushed foliage, and twigs have a slightly lemon-like, unpleasant musky odor. Trifoliate, deciduous leaves with leaflets on a petiole up to 2 inches long, the terminal leaflet up to 2 1/2 inches long, obovate, tapering more gradually to the base than to the tip, midrib of lateral leaflets off center. Leaves are dark-green in summer, turning yellow in fall. Flowers small, greenish white, in clusters among the leaves, appearing in April. Fruit distinctive, wafer-like samara with broad wings, approximately 7/8 inch long by 3/4 inch wide.

This widespread species includes many varieties with leaflets of differing sizes and shapes. The common name refers to a reported use in earlier days of the bitter fruit as a substitute for hops in brewing beer. The bitter bark of the root, like other aromatic barks, has been used for home remedies.

Western Soapberry (Sapindus drummondii).

Soapberry is a single-stemmed, low-branched, round-crowned tree, growing 10-50 ft. tall, depending on habitat. Gray, sculpted bark is distinctive in the dormant season. Leaves up to 18 inches long with a central axis and as many as 24 paired leaflets, usually fewer, and often no terminal leaflet. Leaflets unsymmetric with the broader part of the blade toward the leaf tip and the base rounded on the broader side and tapering on the narrower side. Leaflet tip elongate. Flowers in large, cream colored clusters up to 10 inches long and 6 inches wide, appearing in May and early June. Fruit fleshy, globose, about 1/2 inch wide, flesh translucent, yellow turning darker with age, sometimes persistent on the tree until the next flowering season.

The poisonous fruit, containing the alkaloid saponin, has been used as a soap substitute for washing clothes. Necklaces and buttons are made from the round dark brown seeds, and baskets are made from the wood, which splits easily.

They also have several oaks to consider (Monterrey, Shumard red and Texas Spanish).


From the Image Gallery

Eve's necklace
Styphnolobium affine

Eve's necklace
Styphnolobium affine

Eve's necklace
Styphnolobium affine

Evergreen sumac
Rhus virens

Evergreen sumac
Rhus virens

Mexican buckeye
Ungnadia speciosa

Texas ebony
Ebenopsis ebano

Honey locust
Gleditsia triacanthos

Wafer ash
Ptelea trifoliata

Wafer ash
Ptelea trifoliata

Western soapberry
Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

Western soapberry
Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

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