2016

 
 

Here is yet another gardening mystery. it is Leucaena retusa, more commonly known as Golden ball lead tree. It is a small, fragrant, beautiful tree that is almost totally unknown. If you're one of the discerning few who have one, you're probably the only one in your community.

Leucaena is a Genus of about 24 species of leguminous trees and shrubs, distributed from Texas in the US, to Peru. It belongs in the Mimosa subfamily (Mimosoideae) of the legume family Fabaceae.

Flowering for Leucaena retusa begins in late winter, or early spring, and continues through the summer. These are beautifully bright, golden-yellow clusters that first appear prior to the leaves and continue as the compound leaves develop. These flowers are fragrant, one inch in diameter, and occur near the branch tips, so are highly visible.

As the celery-green leaves emerge in spring, they lend a fresh, bright touch to the garden. And as the leaves mature and turn a darker green, the appeal is more lush and ferny. During this time six inch long, woody pods develop and mature during the late spring, summer, and fall.

The Golden ball lead tree is vase-shaped and typically grows 15 to 25 feet tall and spreads to 10 feet across, a size perfect for the modern garden. It's often multi-trunked and eventually forms a rounded to flat topped crown. It is hardy to about 0° Fahrenheit and is immensely tolerant of a wide range of soils, requiring only good drainage. Golden Ball Lead Tree is also drought tolerant and rarely requires watering once established, even in arid regions, making it an ideal subject for xeriscaping

The Golden ball lead is a superb fit for the patio and courtyard and will even work as a tall subject at the back of the border. For best growth it needs full sun and because the leaves are cold deciduous, the tree can be used on the south side of a house to provide summer shade and winter sun. It is fast growing but the wood may be a little brittle, but, as it rarely exceeds 20 feet, that shouldn't pose any structural threat.

It will grow throughout most of the lower US, especially the warmer Southwest and the genus Leucaena does very well in Australia.

As usual, this special tree will not be found in the popular landscape nurseries but more likely in a specialty, mail-order, plant nursery.

Golden ball lead tree

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