BY LORI MURRAY and Texas Superstar Specialist
As we drove north to Raymondville and across the Ranch near the end of February, we were treated to an explosion of color along the roadsides and in most of the fields — the huisaches were in bloom and putting on quite a show!
Sometimes called the sweet acacia, huisache are a spiny plant of the mimosa family native to Texas and Mexico. They are a thorny shrub having clusters of small fragrant yellow flowers and in nature they form a multi-trunked clump shaped like a fountain.
In landscapes they can be pruned into single-trunked medium sized trees. They are semi-evergreen and will grow in heavy clay and clay-loam soil.
In landscapes also, the huisache can be pruned into a densely foliated shrub or a hedge whose thorns make it an effective physical barrier.
Huisache grows in the South Texas Plains and the Edwards Plateau. We see it all over the Valley, especially along the Arroyo Colorado’s banks.
It is often the scourge of ranchers and farmers because it can be very invasive and quickly take over fallow land, but is nevertheless quite appealing to the layman who enjoys its fern-like foliage and the violet-scented flowers which bloom from February to March.
White-tailed deer and javelina eat its pods, quail eat the seeds, and many birds use the plant for nesting or cover.
The flowers provide nectar for insects, and in the 19th century the flowers of the huisache were even collected to manufacture French perfume.
The bark can be used for tanning, dying, and ink-making.
The pods have been used to create a mending substance for pottery.
Texas Woodcrafts sells the wood today for its beautiful grain pattern and gorgeous colors, but it is difficult to locate and harvest larger huisache because considerable effort has been made to eradicate it.
Despite the frustration it causes ranchers and farmers, however, to the average person ready for a sign of spring, the first line of description in Miller’s Landscaping with Native Plants in Texas rings true: “In the spring, the barren limbs of huisache turn into golden wands and perfume the air with a profusion of flowers.”
Miller, George Oxford. Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas. 2nd ed.