Ungnadia speciosa

Accession Count: 5
Common Name: Mexican Buckeye
Family Name: Sapindaceae
Botanical Name: Ungnadia speciosa
Sub Species:
Variety:
Forma:
Cultivar:
Characteristics: Ugandia speciosa is a multi-trunked tree that blooms pink/purple scented flowers. The deciduous tree tends to be between 10 and 20 feet high, and reach eight to 15 feet wide. The green leaves of the plant are pinnate, alternating along the stem (4). The Mexican buckeye begins to flower about 10 days after first seeing a bud, and this flowering typically occurs in the spring, between the months of March and June (3). The fruit generally starts to ripen around July, and the plant becomes dormant within the first few weeks of the winter time. The fruit contains anywhere from one to three poisonous seeds which are one half inch in size and vary from dark brown to black in color (4,5).
Compound: Ung spe
Geographic Origin: Southwest US, Mexico
Ecozone Origin: Nearctic
Biome Origin:
Natural History: The Mexican buckeye is native to regions in Texas, New Mexico as well as northeast Mexico (3). It can be found growing in the foothills, lower mountain slopes, arroyos, and along stream banks in valley bottoms (3), as well as canyons and rocky areas (5).
Cultivation Notes: When trying to grow the Mexican buckeye plant, there are numerous aspects that you should keep in mind. First, it is best to collect the seeds between August and October right when the capsules begin to open, and you should remove the seeds and allow them to air dry at room temperature for a few days before planting them (5). The plant will grow best if it is in an area which receives full sun or partial shade. Too much shading can result in stunted growth (3,4). It requires little amounts of water monthly, and can survive in areas with dry soil (5). U. speciosa is a very hardy plant, withstanding temperatures as low as 0oF (4). 
Ethnobotany:
The redish brown, brittle wood of the Mexican buckeye is commonly used for firewood (3). It can also be planted to provide shade, or planted in a landscape or garden where it can be pruned to shape, and can even be trained in such a way that it will grow with a single trunk if desired. It is great for individual display and is an attractive background shrub. For xeriscape techniques, it should be planted in transition and mini-oasis zones (4). Children in west Texas have also been known to use the poisonous seeds of the plant as marbles to play games with (3,5). The plant also provides many uses for both large and small animals. It is common for honey bees to use the nectar from the plants flowers, thus the reason the Mexican buckeye is considered a good honey plant (3, 5). Though the seeds are eaten by some small insects and mammals, the plant is generally avoided by larger animals due to being poisonous. The trees however do provide some value to larger livestock who use them as a source of shade, and the buckeye also provides cover for some smaller livestock (3).

Height: 16 - 20 feet
Width: 11 - 15 feet
Growth Rate: Slow Growing
Grow Season: Fall
Flower Season: Spring
Color: Lavender
Function: Patio
Spread: Non-spreading
Allergen: Non-allergenic
Invasive: Benign
Toxicity: Toxic
Hardy: Hardy
Water Use: Low water Use

Citations:
  1. Arizona Municipal Water Users Association
  2. -
  3. Index of Species Information
  4. Walters, James E, and Balbir Backhaus. Shade and Color with Water-Conserving Plants. Timber Press, 1992.
  5. Wildflower, University of Texas
Alert

Ungnadia speciosa