Havardia mexicana

Accession Count: 7
Common Name: Mexican Ebony
Family Name: Fabaceae
Botanical Name: Havardia mexicana
Botanical Synonyms: Pithecellobium mexicanum
Family Synonyms: Leguminosae
Sub Species:
Characteristics: Mexican ebony has gray-green, even-pinnate shaped leaflets that are around one-fourth an inch long. During the winter months, it is an evergreen tree, with a handsome dark grey trunk and branch structure. It has yellow or white flowers that are very fragrant and also produces fruit and nectar that often attract wildlife.
Compound: Hav mex
Geographic Origin: Sonora, Mexico
Ecozone Origin: Neotropic
Biome Origin: MX
Natural History: Mexican Ebony is native to North America, specifically Northern Mexico (1,7).  It is still found mainly in Northern Mexico but has spread, with the help of human intervention, to the Southwestern United States.  It is a member of the Legume family, which is well adapted to tolerate drought and poor soils (2). 
Cultivation Notes:
The plant prefers loose, well-drained soil with low water usage (monthly) and needs full sun for proper development. The Mexican ebony struggles in caliche or hardpan; it prefers deeper soils. It is a perfectly sized patio tree. Due to this species moderately fast growth rate, it can become messy very quickly. At around 20 °F, it is considered hardy.
Ethnobotany: The wood of the Mexican Ebony tree is used for furniture building, as a material for agave liquor stills, firewood, and as beams for building (8).  The bark can be used to tan hides (5).  The seed pods are edible and are often consumed by animals, but should not be eaten by humans unless absolutely necessary.  The bark is brewed into a tea that can relieve upset stomachs (5).  While it does not have the typical flowers that hummingbirds pollinate, the tree has been observed being frequently visited and guarded by the bird (6).  Insects are also attracted to the flowers of the Mexican Ebony.  The spread of this tree also provides shade for animals looking for shelter from the desert sun. This species is perfect for patios or as a barrier in yards or landscape settings. The fragrant flowers, fruit, and nectar attract many different forms of wildlife.

Height: 20 - 50 feet
Width: 16 - 20 feet
Growth Rate: Moderate Growing
Grow Season: Fall
Flower Season: Spring
Color: Yellow
Function: Screen
Spread: Non-spreading
Allergen: Non-allergenic
Invasive: Benign
Toxicity: Benign
Hardy: Hardy
Water Use: Low water Use

  1. USDA GRIN Taxonomy for Plants. Retrieved on December 5, 2013.

  2. Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum Digital Library. Retrieved on December 7, 2013.

  3. Gardening.eu. Retrieved on December 7, 2013.
  4. Water Efficient Landscaping. Retrieved December 8, 2013

  5. Yetman, D. (2002) The Guarijios of the Sierra Madre: Hidden People of Northwestern Mexico. Retrieved on December 6, 2013.

  6. Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. Retrieved on December 6, 2013.

  7. Arizona Municipal Water Users Association. Retrieved on December 7, 2013.

  8. Felger, R; Johnson, M; Wilson, M. (2001) The Trees of Sonora, Mexico. Retrieved on December 6, 2013.
  9. <g data-gr-id="28">Pithecellobium <g data-gr-id="27">mexicanum</g></g>. Retrieved on December 10, 2013

  10. Mexican Ebony. Retrieved on December 9, 2013

Mielke, Judy. Native Plants for Southwestern Landscapes. University of Texas Press, 1993.

Havardia mexicana