Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 43 comments

In 2010, a lush year for wildflowers in central Texas, the huisache trees, Acacia farnesiana, didn’t flower. In 2011, though their spring bloom period came before the worst of the drought, they didn’t flower either. Now they’re making up for lost time, as this picture from March 11 in north-central Austin confirms. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this tree, I’ll say that its blossoms are so numerous and perfumed that you can smell them from a block away if the wind is blowing toward you. And for those not familiar with Spanish, I’ll add that huisache is pronounced approximately wee-SAH-cheh. The word is Mexican Spanish, based on Nahuatl (Aztec) huixachi, from huitzli, which means thorn, and ixachi, which means many. A huisache tree does indeed have many thorns on it; they’re mostly small, and hard to see in this picture, but they’re sharp, as I can attest.

Huisache trees grow in Mexico and across the southern tier of the United States, as the state-clickable map at the USDA website confirms.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 22, 2012 at 5:42 AM

43 Responses

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  1. Lovely Image, Steve.

    I can imagine how strong the smell is, as our native Acacia blooms make me sneeze (although I don’t get hayfever per se).


    March 22, 2012 at 6:42 AM

    • It really is. I had occasion to come across a few yesterday, which was a windy day, and I really could smell them as soon as I got out of my car. Companies have made perfume from huisache flowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 22, 2012 at 6:50 AM

  2. A very lovely photo, and I wish I could experience this acacia. So beautiful!


    March 22, 2012 at 6:50 AM

    • It is beautiful, especially against a bright blue sky. You’ll just have to come to Texas in the spring.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 22, 2012 at 6:52 AM

  3. I love trees like this with so many scented blossoms. The photo is beautiful, and thanks for the etymology!


    March 22, 2012 at 7:10 AM

  4. I have not seen this before. It is really pretty.


    March 22, 2012 at 7:24 AM

    • I’m sorry you don’t have any near you. You can see why they’re among my favorite trees.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 22, 2012 at 5:28 PM

  5. Colorful and beautiful shot.


    March 22, 2012 at 7:35 AM

  6. So many streets named Huisache around here and now I have a picture of what it looks like.


    March 22, 2012 at 7:41 AM

  7. One of my favorite native trees. Not the most common, perhaps because they are not valued/protected in the development process. Beekeepers appreciate as it contributes to some very tasty honey.

    Agnes Plutino

    March 22, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    • You’re right that they’re not among the most common trees, but now that they’re flowering I’ve seen some in various parts of town. There are some on both sides of Mopac between 2222 and 183. Yesterday I found and photographed a bunch in an Austin Energy complex in southeast Austin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 22, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    • I’ve never had huisache honey. Are you aware of any that’s available in Austin?

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 22, 2012 at 7:01 PM

  8. A fabulous picture with striking colour contrasts.


    March 22, 2012 at 9:17 AM

    • I was waiting for a blue sky to take huisache pictures, and we finally had a clear day on March 11. There wasn’t another one for nine days.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 22, 2012 at 5:35 PM

  9. Love the pop of Yellow!


    March 22, 2012 at 10:56 AM

  10. Wow this is most unusual…I have never seen anything like this before. Thanks Steve for sharing photos of the species that inhabit the area in which you live. I learn something everyday!


    March 22, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    • I’m glad to show you something new, David. I hope someday you’ll get to see—and smell—a flowering huisache tree.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 22, 2012 at 5:46 PM

  11. In France this tree is named “mimosa”. It smells very very good ! 🙂


    March 22, 2012 at 5:51 PM

    • So good that it’s the most common perfume for “refreshing” WC after… hum.


      March 22, 2012 at 5:55 PM

    • The huisache tree is in the Fabaceae subfamily called Mimosoideae, so there is indeed a connection to mimosas. I’ve read about perfume made from huisache flowers, but I’ve never smelled it, nor even heard about its use in the way you mentioned.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 22, 2012 at 7:00 PM

  12. Beautiful photo and huisache honey is tasty. Should be a bumper crop from happy bees.


    March 22, 2012 at 6:16 PM

    • You’re the second person to mention huisache honey. I’ll have to try and find some. You’re right that the bees are happy: I’ve seen some of them on the huisache trees I’ve photographed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 22, 2012 at 7:03 PM

  13. Wow, this is stunning. So much to see in this. We’ve had a really wet winter/early spring after similar horrendously dry summer. And everything here seems to be blooming crazy.

    Brandon Brasseaux

    March 22, 2012 at 8:59 PM

    • I’m pleased that you like the huisache, and that you’ve had the same wet winter/early spring in Louisiana that we’ve had in Texas. This “blooming crazy” spring offers us both lots of opportunities for photographs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 22, 2012 at 10:06 PM

  14. C’est magnifique, on dirait une explsion de soleil. Ça ressemble au mimosa qui a, lui aussi, un parfum très puissant. Une de mes fleurs préférées.


    March 23, 2012 at 2:50 AM

    • L’ancolie bleue (the blue columbine) says: “That’s magnificent, like an explosion of sunshine. It resembles the mimosa, which also has a very strong fragrance. One of my favorite flowers.”

      Bienvenue encore une fois, Val, à la nature au Texas. Je t’enverrais du parfum huisache si je pouvais. (Regarde ce qu’en a dit lemarcal ci-dessus.)
      Welcome yet again, Val, to nature in Texas. I’d send you some huisache scent if I could. (Notice what lemarcal said about that earlier.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 23, 2012 at 4:28 AM

  15. The yellow really pops with that blue background. Have a good weekend!

    Michael Glover

    March 23, 2012 at 2:40 PM

    • Yes, the blue really complements the yellow. As for the weekend, if you count today as the beginning of it, I spent a couple of hours playing with more huisaches that I knew the location of and that I found fully flowering.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 23, 2012 at 5:09 PM

  16. […] was widespread interest in the flowering huisache tree, Acacia farnesiana, that appeared in these pages on March 22. That post’s photograph was a close one, and it let you see individual flowers, but it […]

  17. Hi. Your photo is beautiful. Lots of depth and detail. The leaves remind me of Mimosa which I used to see in the greenhouse at Dalhousie University in Halifax. Jane

    jane tims

    March 24, 2012 at 5:55 AM

    • Thanks, Jane. Yes, the huisache is related to the mimosa: both are in the Mimosoideae subfamily of the pea family. I hope you’ll get to experience a huisache someday.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2012 at 8:15 AM

  18. I love the variety of subjects in your photos. The detail on this is incredible.

    In an earlier post, I’d asked how you photographed reds and I’m getting more success with it (I did start with raw as you suggested). Now I’m finding yellows are blowing out my sensor, so I will be doing a lot more practicing with post process work.


    March 24, 2012 at 10:59 AM

    • The variety of subjects in these pictures is a reflection of the variety out there in nature, except that I’ve shown only a small fraction of the species I have pictures of, which in turn is only a small fraction of what exists. I try to vary what I show because different viewers have different interests. I’m still hoping for some dense wildflower displays this spring to balance the pictures of individual flowers.

      Yes, yellow is the color I have the most difficulty with, especially with all the kinds of yellow daisy-like flowers in this area. I can understand why you’ve found that working in raw is helpful. I’m sorry it didn’t exist in the early years of my digital photography and that I didn’t switch to it sooner when it became available.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2012 at 11:11 AM

  19. As always, that lovely clear blue sky is a beautiful backdrop for yellow blossoms. ~ Lynda


    March 25, 2012 at 7:03 AM

    • Yes, it’s that wonderful contrast with the blue that always gets me when I see a flowering huisache on a clear day. I’d found this huisache two days earlier, when the weather was cold and drizzly; I took some pictures even then, but when the sky turned blue on Sunday, back I went to do my color contrast thing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 25, 2012 at 8:45 AM

  20. […] (it’s June in Texas) on the roots of March’s bit of etymology about huisache, I’ll add that the English wordgroundsel looks like it has something to do with the word […]

  21. […] After the search engine ignored everything except huisache and TX, the searcher got taken to this picture. […]

  22. […] you’d like a close view of the flowers of this very tree, though from 2012, I invite you to have a look. It’s worth it, honest, and there’s more information about huisaches there as […]

  23. […] The picture below gives you a sense of scale. By the time I took these pictures on April 16th, visitors had made little hollows in various places where they’d posed for portraits in the bluebonnets. While I aimed to keep those people-pressed hollows out of my photographs, there might be one just to the right of center in the second photograph. I didn’t get close to the trees, which from a distance looked like they might be huisaches. […]

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