The Mexican Buckeye, or Ungnadia speciosa, is a shrubby tree native to northeastern Mexico and adjacent southern New Mexico and Texas in the US. It is the only species in the genus Ungnadia. Its leaves differ from true buckeyes but the nuts are similar.
It is a small tree that only grows 20 to 30 feet in height with a spread of 20 feet with a dense branching pattern. The spreading, irregular crown is composed of many light, upright branches which, along with the persistent seedpods and mottled gray and brown bark, helps make Mexican Buckeye an attractive feature in the winter landscape.
It is deciduous with dark-green leaves up to 12 inches long that are pinnately compound with five to seven oval leaflets which develop a bright yellow fall color.
But it is the bloom that is so stunning. The half-inch flowers emerge before the leaves and range from pale pastel pink to deep rose-red. They are closely held on the stem and very showy, giving the impression of a pink cloud from a distance.
Flowers are followed by distinctive three-lobed, woody capsules that look much like the fruit of the horsechestnut, or buckeye (hence the common name). The fruit is up to 2 inches wide and ultimately splits open to reveal the hard, glossy black seeds within. While birds love the fruit, the seeds are toxic if eaten by humans.
The flowers immediately bring to mind the Redbud or Judas tree but this tree grows in environments too hostile for Redbuds. Mexican buckeye is adapted to arid sites including rocky ones with high alkalinity. However, in good garden soil with regular water, it grows better and more quickly than in the drier situations.

This North American native is well-suited for containers and buffer strips around parking lots or street plantings. Despite the desert origins it has some decent winter hardiness surviving as far north as coastal New England. It would be fully hardy in the UK and is well-adapted to Australia.


Mexican buckeye

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