Any luck with goldenball leadtree in north Texas?

bostedo(8a tx-bp-dfw)April 17, 2013

Does anyone have any experience with goldenball leadtree (leucaena retusa) as far north as DFW? Appears it should do fine here, but figure there must be some reasons for not seeing them used more in the area.

Here is a link that might be useful: Goldenball leadtree at

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freshair2townsquare(z7/8, D/FW)

I found one at Marshall Grain in G'vine, and it looked pretty puny. The wildflower site mentions brittle branches that require pruning, so that may be a problem. Its on the plant list for this weekend's sale at the Discovery Gardens.

But I have no personal experience.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2013 at 3:28PM
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There is a very successful specimen at the A&M research facility at Coit & George Bush Turnpike, unless it was ripped out when they demolished their community garden and demo garden.

The reason you never see any is because they are relatively unknown - which is a shame because they are great trees. You can special order one from Shades of Green. They are your best bet for more unique TX natives, such as Mexican Buckeye (got mine there!) and Texas Kidneywood (ditto x 2). All 3 of these trees grow surprisingly well from seed.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 8:29PM
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bostedo(8a tx-bp-dfw)

Thanks for the affirmations. I've found info on this tree to be a bit muddled - even has it listed as evergreen; don't believe this is the case (at least north of San Antonio), but would be glad if it were true. Just cast doubt on whether the info was solid enough to believe the tree can be reliable this far north of its native range. Seems like a nice flowering Texas native and am looking forward to trying it here.

I've observed that if you want a source for a hard-to-find plant, then buy the seeds. Within days of receiving the seeds, either someone will tell you where you can buy the plant or you'll stumble across it. Thanks to both of you for validating this once again. I finally resorted to starting seeds last week and hope to plant this fall - nice to know of these other options if I managed to kill it over the summer. I'm assuming the Discovery Gardens sale is an annual event and will check out Shades of Green. Thanks!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 9:16PM
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I put one in last fall but it was tiny and my dogs dug it up :-(

I have a decent sized 5 gal one now getting ready to plant. Got it at the Heard Sale. They also always have them at the Wildflower Center sale in Austin. Kind of a hike but well worth it. A lot of times I take off on Friday and go on the members only day but this year had to restrain myself due to time constraints, busy redoing the kitchen. So I got my fill of plants at the Heard instead.

Anyway I do know of others who have grown them successfully in DFW.

Do you belong to your Native Plant Society of TX chapter? If not, check out You can meet a lot of people who can help you with advice, seeds, cuttings, etc. as you add to your native collection.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 7:40AM
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You may already know all of this; I don't like to presume anything - BUT - I neglected to mention in my original post: Lady Bird Wildflower does mention that the stems are brittle - yes this is true..."kinda-sorta". The branches of the GLB tree are reliably stout. However, was with most trees/shrubs in the legume family - to which the golden leadball tree belongs - the flower stem can be somewhat brittle. This is mostly for the trees, such as the TX Kidneywood, where the seeds don't burst open and rely more on wind/animals/etc to spread the dried seeds. In my non-expert experience/observation, the golden leadball seed pods are attached to pretty strong stems on more mature trees. The pods want to hang on to their lofty stem so when they burst open, they can fling farther. To me, it's logical that the less mature trees would have more brittle stems, simply because the younger trees cannot support the weight of the seed pods - which can be 4" or so, and as fat as a healthy pencil.

I share this because I wouldn't want you to be discouraged from taking a shot at growing this tree. There should really be more of these grown in our area.

The bonus to this tree is that since they are of the pea family and fix the nitrogen in the soil. So if you plant native grasses in the same area, you get bonus soil nutrient. I saw a gorgeous grouping of TX Kidneywood and Lindheimer Muhly (ornamental grass) - a really smart symbiotic planting.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 10:54AM
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bostedo(8a tx-bp-dfw)

lucas_tx: Good to know of the additional native plant sale options; have not managed to be available for any (so far) this year, but will be looking out in 2014. Not a NPSOT member, but have appreciated info they've made available. Don't know yet if I'll join, but it's on a very short list of considerations. Oh... and very nice of you to buy your dogs a bigger tree ;-)

Tayinnawin_Nell: Thanks for the additional details on the seeds and "brittleness". Doesn't scare me off, especially in the back-yard spot we're considering. One of the other reported benefits that seems good fit for this location is that the light shade from the open canopy offers a bit more flexibility in what can be grown underneath it. Glad to know it does well for you in zone 7, so am looking forward to getting one started in 8a.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 10:41AM
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denisew(z8 TX)

I know they sell them at one of the local nurseries in the Allen area and the man who runs the place has one in his yard. It is worth a try.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 11:35AM
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Good question. I know they grow OK in Austin...
But not sure about north of there?

Here is a link that might be useful: Goldenball Lead Tree (Leucaena retusa)

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 3:27PM
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I know Round Rock (just north of Austin) is considered Central Texas, but thought you'd like to see the one we planted about a year ago. It is a little hard to see but this is about 7-8 ft tall already. It was very robust from day 1, and has easily doubled in size during that time, and did in fact lose its leaves this winter. One sizable 'stem' (small branch) broke off due to some wind I think, But it is a fun tree - our family calls it the Dr. Seuss tree because of the yellow balls it gets when it blooms. They are very rare in residential landscapes here; we wanted something unique. Strongly encourage you to give it a try.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 11:01AM
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bostedo(8a tx-bp-dfw)

The Wasowskis (Native Texas Plants) said they're known to survive as far north as McKinney and might make it to the Red River. Noticed Temple College removed theirs in 2012 without explanation, so still suspect there is some reason we do not see more of these around the state - though I'll continue to try to find out.

Two of three seeds I planted came up, so good germination rate. One died when I forgot to water it before heading out of town. The other is still too small to pit against the slugs, rabbits, and squirrels; so will keep it in a container through this summer while keeping an eye out for a bigger plant at the local nurseries.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 4:57PM
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Yeah, speaking of rabbits....after the dogs dug up the first one, the rabbits ate the top off the replacement. I have it caged now but after this tough winter, not sure if it will come back again or not.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 9:46PM
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Here is how our GLB tree looks now. There are a bunch of new branches/trunks coming up from the base since a major branch snapped off last year - Not sure if I'll trim those or not. You can just see one of the balls blooming on top still. We had a couple of dozen of those on the tree over the spring.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2014 at 12:42PM
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roselee z8b S.W. Texas

JS, it's such a lovely tree and yours is looking GOOD! Thanks for the update, and I appreciated reading the all the comments about it.

Incidentally, I'm very interested in another beautiful legume type tree that's growing at the edge of the church property. It was a fairly tall tree before the city cut in down last year to install a new telephone pole. Now it's come back multitrunked and so far about 8/10 ft tall. I think it's a Berlandier acacia and I'm trying to convince the grounds keeper not to cut it down, especially not until it produces seeds I can collect.

Here is a link that might be useful: Berlandier acacia ...

This post was edited by roselee on Tue, Jul 1, 14 at 13:31

    Bookmark   July 1, 2014 at 1:10PM
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bostedo(8a tx-bp-dfw)

jscaldwell, Appreciate seeing how nice your tree looks leafed out. Hope our seed start will look as good in a few years - still only a bit over a foot tall 6 months after last photo, but at least starting to look more like a tree.

roselee, Saw a common name for the Berlandier acacia is thornless catclaw. Do these not have thorns? Saw one photo that seemed to show they do, but not sure it was reliable. Have tried the hardier lower growing (and thornless) prairie acacia (Acacia angustissima) a couple times from seed, but between the slugs and my brown thumb, have not yet been able to get them past the seedling stage yet.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 3:16PM
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roselee z8b S.W. Texas

Bostedo, the acacia tree does not have thorns; not even the hint of a thorn! The stems and trunk are perfectly smooth. I took some photos this morning and will post them on another thread in hopes it can be positively identified.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 4:40PM
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