Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Huisaches are wide

with 18 comments

Click for greater size and clarity.

There 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 happened to be vertical, so this time I thought I should explain that a huisache often has multiple trunks that lean out from the tree’s center as they grow. In that case the overall effect is horizontal, and today’s picture gives you a feel for that wide huisache gestalt. As your gaze sweeps from left to right, be aware that everything in this photograph is part of a single tree. Quite a sight for the eyes, and quite pleasant for the olfactory.

I took this picture on March 21 when I was on my way home from McKinney Falls State Park in southeast Austin (this may be the first picture you’ve seen here from that part of town). I purposely drove along some streets I rarely travel, just to see what I might find. As I passed the grounds of an Austin Energy depot, I noticed several large huisaches on the property, so in I went. I parked and then walked over to an area surrounded by a fence with razor wire on top of it; I don’t know why that area was so well protected, but it was, and all the huisache trees were inside it (and no, I don’t think Austin Energy was trying to protect them). As I walked past the sliding gate to enter that enclosure, I wondered what would happen if someone closed the gate and I got locked in. I almost found out. It was only 2:30 in the afternoon, but after I wandered around taking pictures for 15 minutes, I suddenly noticed that the gate had been slid almost all the way closed and the last workers were leaving. I quickly headed for the exit and ended up being the last person to get out through the narrow opening before the workers closed the gate completely. As I’ve said before: the things we do for pictures.

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 24, 2012 at 5:20 AM

18 Responses

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  1. Huisache is a very beautiful small tree, with a great scent and the honey made from it is probably the best tasting single honey on earth. It’s a wonderful tree. It doesn’t come into Pecos County as far as I know though there is some guajillo in the very eastern part of the county, near the Pecos River and the Crockett and Terrell county lines. Guajillo honey is a close second in flavor

    John Mac Carpenter

    March 24, 2012 at 5:42 AM

    • Agnes Plutino also mentioned huisache honey, so I’m going to have to try to find some. You and various sources describe huisache as a small tree, and it’s true that I’ve seen small ones, but I’ve also come across some that are pretty big, especially when they’re wide.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2012 at 6:50 AM

  2. Hi. Quite an adventure. I never thought of botany as dangerous! We don’t have this species so it is new for me. Jane

    jane tims

    March 24, 2012 at 5:52 AM

    • This was a different sort of danger from the ones I usually face: thorns, prickles, spines, nettles, mosquitoes, chiggers, rugged slopes, heat, etc. Botany seems easy by comparison.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2012 at 7:05 AM

      • Oh, and don’t forget the ticks and fire ants. Been seeing a lot more ticks than usual. Guess it was the mild winter.

        Agnes Plutino

        March 24, 2012 at 7:45 AM

      • You’re right: I had a run-in with fire ants just yesterday when I got down on the ground to photograph a Texas dandelion. I managed to get away with just one bite. Their casualties were much greater.

        Thanks for the warning about ticks: I’ll be on the lookout.

        Steve Schwartzman

        March 24, 2012 at 8:05 AM

  3. Well! I’m getting quite an education this morning from reading this article, comments, and the previous article about HUISACHE (copied and pasted! ). Also went poking around to learn more. Apparently bees like HUISACHE also, making it a plant I might not want to get too close to myself. Steve, what an interesting adventure you had for obtaining your great HUISACHE pictures to share with us!

    whilldtkwriter

    March 24, 2012 at 6:33 AM

    • Happy education to us all. The fragrant flowers of huisache definitely attract bees, which it sounds like you may have had some unwelcome encounters with. With all the nature photography I do, I’m in the presence of lots of bees but somehow I never think of myself as being in danger from them. They have their job to do and I have mine, so there’s a peaceful coexistence.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2012 at 7:16 AM

      • I’ve not been stung by bees or other similar flying stinger-attached critters. Have had encounters with poison ivy, which I noticed that you blogged about the other day. I’ve heard that poison ivy exposure makes people MORE sensitive than less in future encounters. (Not intending to hijack the topic.)

        whilldtkwriter

        March 24, 2012 at 10:18 AM

      • Sorry about your close encounters with poison ivy. So far I’ve been lucky on that score, and it’s possible that I’m one of those people who are immune from its effects. I react to plenty of other things in nature—like pollen and molds—so it would be a welcome relief to have one I’m not allergic to. Yesterday I came home sneezing and congested from all the stuff that’s out there now and that I have to endure to take my nature pictures.

        Steve Schwartzman

        March 24, 2012 at 10:23 AM

  4. Hi Steve .. lovely photo and story – glad you escaped in time! Mind you by the sound of John’s description you’d have had plenty to eat .. from the honey .. wonderful description of the tree. Cheers Hilary

    hilarymb

    March 24, 2012 at 6:43 AM

    • In the worst case I would have called 911 to get someone to come and unlock the gate, but while waiting I would’ve gone back to the trees and taken more pictures. And if I’d found a beehive with huisache honey, I don’t know that I would have risked trying to get some of it: that would have taken me beyond peaceful coexistence, I’m afraid.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2012 at 7:21 AM

  5. There is a nice stand of Huisache blooming in a field on the North East Inner Loop, not far from IH35 in Georgetown. They’ve been there for a long time.
    Also, a lot blooming along Wolf Ranch Parkway, the road that runs behind the Walmart and Home Depot connecting Hwy29 to Williams Dr. in Georgetown. I never realized they were there until this year.
    Beautiful!!!

    Agnes Plutino

    March 24, 2012 at 7:51 AM

    • Thanks for the tips, Agnes. Now that the huisaches are flowering, their color has reminded me of some I’d forgotten about and others I wasn’t aware of. The one in my neighborhood isn’t as attractive this year as the huisaches I’ve stopped to photograph around town.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2012 at 8:10 AM

  6. The famous Uvalde honey is huisache honey……..it’s a very common plant there, right now the drive up the Devil’s River from Comstock to Junction should be fragrant with huisache and shortly after with guajillo..both delicious odors. I’m not allergic to bees so while the occasional sting hurts I don’t worry about them. We have lots of carpenter bees on our deck since it has a screen of sotol stalks and they love to burrow into them to live. It always tickles to see how frightened some people are of carpenter bees, since I’ve never known one to sting. But they are big and ugly……but very interesting to watch.
    I’ve seen huisache over 30 ft tall but that’s rare. The closest ones I know of to where I live in Ft Stockton are in Terrell county but there are also some in the Big Bend National Park, one small grove many miles away from any others, which makes me wonder if someone planted them many years ago, like the date palms which are present in several groves there, where early settlers lived. I love your photos, Steve. Thank you for them as well as the remarks you add.

    John Mac Carpenter

    March 24, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    • From what you say, Uvalde and vicinity may be the most fragrant part of the state now. I’d certainly like to see a huisache 30 feet tall, especially when it’s covered with flowers.

      I find it interesting that someone whose name is Carpenter has lots of carpenter bees. Somehow I’ve never seen any Schwartzman bees.

      I’m glad you’re having a good time with these photographs and the commentary that accompanies them; the writing takes longer than the posting (but not the taking) of the pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2012 at 3:18 PM

  7. There’s plenty of huisache blooming here now – along the marshes and railroads the plants remain low and small, but there are a couple of protected areas in Seabrook where the trees are substantial in size – perhaps 20-25 feet. They are beautiful this year, and even though I’m not a great fan of honey, huisache honey far outshines clover and so on.

    Your title tickled me, putting me in mind of a fine old song. The revised lyrics might be something like “The huisache is wide, I can’t get ’round, Neither have I wings to fly. Give me a zoom, and a macro, too, and both shall aid my trusty eye.”

    shoreacres

    March 24, 2012 at 11:24 PM

    • I’m glad you’re getting to enjoy the huisaches in bloom in those protected areas. Here in Austin, protected or not, they all seem to be thriving. You’re the third person to mention huisache honey, which I really have a yen to sample now. Let’s hope some specialty shop in Austin carries it.

      I know the song you’re referring to and have liked it for a long time; it is indeed fine. Thanks for amending the lyrics to favor this itinerant nature photographer who works both close and from afar.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2012 at 11:47 PM


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