Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Huisache tree flowering away

with 20 comments

Huisache Tree Flowering 9868

The yellow-orange that you saw peeking through from beyond the pink redbud blossoms in yesterday’s March 27th photograph came not from the developing leaves of the redbud (which were there, though inconspicuous) but from the flowers on a huisache* tree, Acacia farnesiana, that loomed over the redbud. The combination of the two types of flowers, different in color and form, is what caught my attention.

There are perhaps a dozen huisache trees along E. 51st St., and I was glad to see them flowering on March 27th because late freezes (or something else) in the early spring of 2014 had kept all the huisaches in Austin from blooming last year. Huisaches typically grow tall and wide, so the thousands of flowers you see in this photograph were on a single tree.


* The Spanish word huisache is pronounced somewhat like we-sah-chay would be in English, with stress on the middle syllable.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 21, 2015 at 5:21 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

20 Responses

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  1. A grand, glorious, golden halo for the redbud.


    April 21, 2015 at 8:32 AM

  2. It’s seems appropriate that you’d be posting such an iconic Texas tree on San Jacinto Day. I’m glad to see it, too, because ours aren’t in bloom yet. That seems counterintuitive, but I remember we’ve been behind you in years past.

    Speaking of San Jacinto Day, while some choose “The Yellow Rose of Texas” as their musical tribute, my favorite is one that actually was played on that day: “Come to the Bower.” There’s some good information about the song and the musicians here.


    April 21, 2015 at 8:33 AM

    • I’d forgotten it’s San Jacinto Day, and I never knew about “Will You Come to the Bower?” The site at


      says the song was originally political rather than romantic.

      As for huisaches, they’ve pretty much finished their flowering here now, so it’s good to hear that folks over by the coast still have a chance to see them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 21, 2015 at 1:46 PM

  3. I wondered what that was behind the Redbud. What an amazing tree! It is gorgeous.


    April 21, 2015 at 9:46 AM

    • I started to write that I love seeing these each spring, but some years they don’t flower (as you heard me say above). Even when they do flower, which is most years, I’ve noticed that the display can begin appearing as early as the end of February and as late as the beginning of April.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 21, 2015 at 1:51 PM

      • One of the concerns I hear biologists express about global warming is that plants will start to emerge earlier, and throwing off their pollinators and other insects which depend on them. I definitely see swings in when the spring species come out, but the plants that do their thing later in the summer don’t seem as variable. Is that what you notice as well?


        April 22, 2015 at 9:30 AM

        • I’ve read about the concern for a potential mismatch between plants and pollinators, and I’m wondering if the same changed stimulus that could cause the plants to come out earlier might similarly cause the pollinators to emerge earlier. Also, if plants start moving into areas that are warmer than they used to be, pollinating insects might move into those formerly colder areas as well. Not all species adapt rapidly to changed conditions, but some do. If you remember the tūī bird from New Zealand, one of the articles about it says:

          “The Tui is the one endemic bird to have survived and even thrived in the presence of humans on these islands. They have entered our national consciousness like no other New Zealand bird, not even the Kiwi whom we rarely see or even hear these days. The Tui has become very much an intimate part of our daily lives, whereas so many other birds have languished and died out or stayed away in the deep bush and shunned our presence.”

          As for the huisache, the variation in its flowering time is in both directions. I remember late February from around 15 years ago, but this year’s flowers emerged in April. That’s anecdotal, of course, and I don’t know if anyone has determined a longer-term pattern for the flowering of this species.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 22, 2015 at 10:06 AM

          • I’ve wondered the same thing, and in the two species of butterflies that I’ve kept an eye on, it does seem that they somehow stay in step with their respective host plants in early spring.
            And in that restoration project I described in an earlier post, I was amazed at the species that reappeared. They are considered conservative species, ones that do not fly to new habitats. So when this reserve was created from the midst of intensive farmland, where did they come from? Amazing.
            The huisache is fascinating in its ability to shift bloom time so much.


            April 22, 2015 at 10:45 AM

            • I’ve read that some seeds can remain buried and viable for decades, so maybe that accounts for at least part of the rebound you observed when the reserve was created.

              The flowering of the huisache trees seems to depend a lot on temperature, so that when we had later-than-usual freezing weather last spring in Austin the huisaches didn’t flower at all. I think I noted a couple flowering tens of miles south of Austin, but that was it for what I saw in 2014.

              Steve Schwartzman

              April 22, 2015 at 11:28 AM

  4. Lovely colour – a bit like our autumn colours at the moment which is weird.

    Raewyn's Photos

    April 21, 2015 at 3:22 PM

    • I hope you’ll post a picture (or several) of autumn colors in New Zealand so we can see what they’re like.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 21, 2015 at 4:24 PM

  5. That looks like quite a feast for the eyes with such nice colorful blooming trees in close proximity and a nice clear blue sky.

    Steve Gingold

    April 22, 2015 at 3:45 AM

    • You know me and blue skies, Steve, which are especially helpful in setting off the vast yellow-orange displays huisache trees can put on.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 22, 2015 at 7:12 AM

  6. When I slammed on the brakes during a Thanksgiving day drive, I got a look and a question: “What are you doing?” “I need a photo of that sign,” I said. This was the sign.

    The TSHAOnline notes that, “The Middletown post office was established on November 22, 1855. The name, however, generated confusion with another Middletown, Texas (in Comal County), prompting residents to rename their town after the huisache, or sweet acacia tree, common in the area.

    The new post office was named in May 1860, but its designation was misspelled, “a monument to the bold, independent phonetic way that Texans often spell their place names,” according to Texas journalist Frank X. (Francis) Tolbert.”

    I thought this fun fact deserved a place in one of your huisache posts.


    December 6, 2015 at 9:20 PM

    • Thanks for that intersection of history, ethnology, botany, and language. I always pronounce huisache in three syllables, following Spanish, with the middle syllable stressed, but I’ve heard that Anglo Texans traditionally pronounce it in two, wee-satch, with stress on the first syllable. I guess we can’t blame English speakers for molding the Spanish word to their own language, and we could say the same thing about the Spanish speakers who had earlier borrowed the word from Nahuatl huixachi (where the x normally indicates a sh sound).

      The few times I’ve driven from Austin to Goliad, I’ve gone straight down US 183. I see from a map that Weesatche is tucked a few miles off to the side of 183, so I never passed through it. If I’d seen a sign for it, I might have been tempted to correct the spelling.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2015 at 6:40 AM

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