Desert Willow

GreatPlains1(7OK)July 19, 2013

Do the leaves of this tree typically have a strong fragrant smell? I purchased an unknown type last summer on super sale for $4 and its now about 5 ft tall but it still hasn't bloomed yet so I have no idea of what kind it is. The leaves are extremely fragrant.

I grew one some time back from seed that I have since removed since it was ugly due to an encroaching shade location but never noticed a smell from it the whole time I had it. This new one is in my front yard and a couple of people walking by have even commented on how good my yard smells. One woman said it was her daily dose of aroma-therapy. It took me some time to pin down the source but its definitely coming from the tree leaves. Is this typical?

The smell is like an antique cabinet or chest that has had sachets stored in it for many years.

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Here in Tucson, we are inundated with Desert Willows, but I've never come across scented foliage in the 20+ years I've been here. Come to think of it, I only noticed scented flowers on one tree, a burgundy one. You apparently have an unusual specimen. Consider yourself lucky!

We once had a Willow Acacia with leaves that smelled like fresh-brewed coffee. Right now we have a Tenacza that smells like ... cat pee.

You might try propagating yours!

Here is a link that might be useful: Scent of a desert willow

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 12:52AM
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To me they smell like incense, but I have friends who don't smell it at all. I notice the scent most when there is some humidity in the air, especially early in the morning. And I smell it whether the tree is flowering or not, so it seems to be the foliage.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 11:25AM
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Incense is a good description. Its a combination woodsy/floral smell.

I pulled a leaf and lightly rubbed it between my fingers. It had a gummy feel and my hands picked up the smell and my fingers got tacky. There is definitely some kind of oil or resin in the leaves. Still, my other tree never had a noticeable scent and this one you can smell from quite a distance away.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 3:41PM
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roselee z8b S.W. Texas

Well of course you know you had all of us trotting out to smell our Desert Willow trees ... LOL. Mine had no scent at all, neither flowers, leaves nor bark.

The thought crossed my mind that you had gotten hold of an Arroya sweetwood tree, but I don't think they'd be selling them in Oklahoma. Arroya sweet wood has the delicious scent of cinnamon and vanilla from all it's parts.

I'd love it if my Desert willow was scented like yours.

Here is a link that might be useful: Arroyo Sweetwood (Myrospermum sousanum)

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 6:19PM
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My Desert Willow foliage have no fragrance either.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 9:29PM
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carrie751(z7/8 TX)

Neither does mine.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 10:20PM
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roselee z8b S.W. Texas

Other people have detected a scent also, but mostly from the flowers. From the internet:

"...native desert willow produces beautiful scented, tubular flowers that bloom in May through October."

"By early autumn, the violet-scented flowers, which appear after summer rains ..."

"In late Spring, the wonderfully sweet scent of the large Desert Willow flowers can be...."

Here is a link that might be useful: The Grackle Blog mentions a scent from the tree ... ...

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 10:54PM
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Roselee, I tried that crush test. I've been trying to google information about this for a few days now and that was the only thing I could find. I didn't smell anything either except "green smell" but if you gently rub it it gets your fingers sticky and you do smell it.

The reason it took so long to pin down the smell was I didn't even consider the tree as a remote possibility and I'd planted so many new native wildflowers and kept sniffing those trying to figure out "Where in the world is it?? what is it???" because the smell seemed to be coming from everywhere and it was starting to drive me crazy trying to find the source.

Next week I plan to call the nursery where I bought it at the Midnight Madness Sale last summer and see if they can tell me what kind it was they carried last year. They had mostly those pricier hybrid types for sale at 1/2 price, I think they were Chilopsis linearis 'Monhews', which were denser trees loaded with blooms even on the small gallon sized ones. The blooms were very strongly fragrant on those. Those have bigger, greener leaves and more flowers but I personally kind of like the more open, native looking Chilopsis because of the desert feel even if it does produce the pods and blooms less. Plus I couldn't pass on $4.00 for a decent sized tree in the super bargain mark-down area.

Its definitely not the Arroyo, that looks like a legume and something that wouldn't be hardy here.

I feel positive its a Chilopsis, there's quite a few growing around here -- unless its something with the exact same kind of leaves and habit? There was no label on the pot when I bought it. If I get a cultivar name, I'll post it but it just looks like one of those common wild ones.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 11:38PM
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Mine have a sort of citrus scent. I usually detect the scent on still, moist mornings and evenings. I have not been able to recreate the scent by crushing or rubbing the leaves, but I know the scent comes from the desert willow. It is very nice.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 11:44PM
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I'm thinking it might not be a desert willow at all but maybe and type of Eucalyptus.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 8:35AM
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lou_texas(8a N Central TX)

I have several desert willows and have never noticed a scent - not to say that it's not there - I may just be missing it.
My oldest tree is going on 18 years and is very large and craggy. It had the usual irratic branching, but by pruning off the down-hanging branches, it always had a pleasing form to me. It blooms burgundy. I have a young white desert willow (about 8ft) that has been stingy with blooms until this year. I wonder if the white-flowering ones are just less vigorous about flowering. (?) I also have several species that bloom pinky lavender. One of them (probably at least 12 years old) lost several branches in ice storms the last few years and looked hideous so this winter I pruned off all branches. Yes, for months I had a large totem-pole, dead-looking thing in my front yard, but I left it alone - I just knew it would come back. In May it sprouted and by June it was covered top to bottom with sprouted branches - no trunk showing. It looked like a tall, slim, upright wooly green hedgehog. Last week my grandson created a canopy by removing the lower branches up to about 5 ft. We may raise the canopy further. Right now it's beginning to bloom. Who would have ever thought the branches could grow so densely? The top now looks like an elongated green pom pom. It will be interesting to watch it as the branches grow longer as the summer wears on. I've heard of people rejuvenating their desert willows by yearly pruning, but I hadn't tried it. I always liked the big, craggy erratic branches with flowing leaves so I only pruned for form, taking off the down-hanging branches. I'm not sure what the future is for this particular tree, but I've sure had fun watching it. Lou

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 12:13PM
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If you trim them to the ground you will end up with a shrub, that might look better than a sprouted totem pole. I hear that in very cold desert places like Utah they die down a couple feet and sometimes down to the roots and grow more in the form of shrubs. I'm establishing a mixed border and considered trying one trained as a shrub but its only half day sun and it would probably end up leaning and stretching.

The one that I took out was solid white and the blooms were sparse so maybe there is something to the white being stingy with blooms. It was grown from a seed I got at a park from of a much nicer and prettier tree loaded with purple blooms. Its the last one I'll try from seed.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 1:59PM
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