5 Native Flowering Trees of Central Texas

If you are looking for a new tree to add to your yard, go native! These five flowering trees of Central Texas are not only native to the Hill Country area, they are absolutely gorgeous when they are in bloom.

5 Native Flowering Trees of Texas Hill Country

Why Plant Native Texas Trees?

Did you know that native trees (those that have evolved in your local area) can offer a wealth of ecological benefits over non-native trees (those imported from other continents)? Native trees:

  • Are some of the best butterfly and moth host plants that we have. Learn why host plants are so important to sustaining wildlife.
  • Have evolved in your local climate and tend to handle harsh weather conditions such as long periods of drought better than non-natives.
  • Create a sense of place. Nothing says Texas Hill Country like the Texas Mountain Laurel in bloom!
  • Provide ecological diversity from the monotony of yards planted with the same non-native species (i.e., all those Crepe Myrtles and Ligustrum trees!).

5 Flowering Trees of Texas Hill Country

There are more native flowering trees of Texas than just these five , but these are my favorite ornamental trees around San Antonio where I live. What would you add to the list?

1. Texas Mountain Laurel

Scientific Name: Sophora secundiflora

Often referred to as the “Grape Kool-Aid Tree”, this one of the first trees flowering in Central Texas in the spring, and its flowers really do smell like grape Kool-Aid! The small tree has beautiful cone shaped clusters of purple flowers that are 3-7″ long.

The flowers only last a few weeks in spring, but the remainder of the year the evergreen tree has pretty glossy leaves.

The Texas Mountain Laurel is one of the prettiest flowering trees of Texas.
The gorgeous drooping flowers of the Texas Mountain Laurel (Image source: Canva.com)

Mountain Laurel Tree Details

  • Blooms: Purple blooms in early spring
  • Height: 6-12 ft.
  • Sun Requirements: Dappled shade to full sun
  • Common Names: Texas Mountain Laurel, Mescal Bean
  • Host Plant: Henry’s Elfin and Orange Sulphur butterflies

Did You Know?

The bright red Mescal beans (seeds) of the Texas Mountain Laurel were used by Native Americans for ceremonial uses. However, the beans can be deadly to humans if broken and chewed. Thankfully, their hard seed coat means that if a child accidentally swallows a bean it will most likely pass through their system without causing harm.

2. Texas Redbud

Scientific Name: Cercis Canadensis var. texensis

This is one of the pretties blooming trees in Texas and hard to miss when it is in bloom. Its branches are covered in purplish pink flowers between March and April. It is one of the most recognizable flowering trees of Central Texas and commonly used in landscapes. I also personally think it is the prettiest flowering tree in Texas!

The rest of the year you can identify the plant by its heart shaped leaf. However, it is a deciduous tree. The leaves will turn yellow and fall from the tree in the winter.

The Texas Red Bud is one of the most recognizable flowering trees of Central Texas.
The deep pink flower covered branches of the Texas Redbud are hard to miss. (Image source: Canva.com)

Texas Redbud Tree Details

  • Blooms: pinkish purple blooms cover branches in March & April
  • Height: 10-20 ft.
  • Sun Requirements: Dappled shade to full sun
  • Common Names: Texas Red Bud (different from Eastern Red Bud)
  • Host Plant: Henry’s Elfin butterfly

Did You Know?

You can eat the flower buds and flowers of the Texas Redbud. Apparently, they are especially delicious sautéed in butter! The cut branches also make for a beautiful spring arrangement.

Jumpstart Your Native Plant Garden

3. Huisache

Scientific Name: Acacia Farnesiana var. smallii

For several years I loved eating at the Huisache Grill in New Braunfels, without knowing what “Huisache” meant. It is pronounced “WEE-satch”. Only recently did I realize it was the name of a native Texas tree with beautiful puff balls of yellow flowers in the spring!

The flowers put off a heavenly scent. However, in some areas the tree may not bloom every year if the flower buds are hit by a late frost. I’m guessing they will not bloom this year given the February 2021 Snowcopalypse.

Other identifiable characteristics of Huisache are its multiple trunks and skinny branches with thorns and fern-like leaves. Huisache actually means “many thorns” in Nahuatl – a language spoken by the indigenous people of Mexico.

Huisache Tree Details

  • Blooms: golden yellow ball-shaped blossoms from March-April
  • Height: 15-20 ft.
  • Sun Requirements: Full sun
  • Common Names: Huisache, Sweet Acacia
  • Host Plant: Henry’s Elfin butterfly

Did You Know?

They plant this tree in Southern Europe to be used for perfume. I love this tree but it can be considered invasive as it will easily move into disturbed areas. However it is a great provider of nectar for bees and seeds for birds!

4. Retama

Scientific Name: Parinsonia Aculeata

This is another name that I associated with a business around San Antonio without knowing what it meant -the Retama Park horse race track! Retama is one of several common names for this pretty drought tolerant tree with lime green branches and bright yellow flowers. This tree can be found from Southern Texas to Arizona, where it is called Palo Verde.

We have a Retama tree on the nature path near our house. I am keeping a close eye on it as it looks like it was damaged from the February mega-freeze.

Retama or Palo Verde is known for its bright green branches and yellow flowers in spring.
The mix of lime green branches with bright yellow flowers on Retama (Image source: Canva.com)

Retama Tree Details

  • Blooms: Clusters of bright yellow from from spring-summer
  • Height: 12-15 ft.
  • Sun Requirements: Full sun
  • Common Names: Retama, Palo Verde, Jerusalem Thorn

Did You Know?

Retama likes soil that is not too wet or too dry. Under very dry conditions, it will drop all its leaves. However it still looks pretty with its green branches. Its long bloom cycle makes it a great nectar source for pollinators. Its seeds provide food for birds and small mammals.

5. Mexican Plum

Scientific Name: Prunus Mexicana

I saw this tree in bloom for the first time on the grounds of Mission San Juan while on a nature walk with Master Naturalists. It was in early February and one of the first trees in bloom. It was covered with bees!

The Mexican Plum is one of the flowering trees of Texas loved by bees.
The delicate white flowers that cover the Mexican Plum tree in spring. (Image source: Canva.com)

Mexican Plum Tree Details

  • Blooms: Pretty white blooms cover its branches in early spring
  • Height: 15-35 ft.
  • Sun Requirements: Dappled shade to full sun
  • Common Names: Mexican Plum, Bigtree Plum
  • Host Plant: Tiger Swallowtail, Cecropia moths

Did You Know?

Not only do the bees love its flowers, the plums are devoured by birds and other small mammals. Humans can eat them too!

How Do I Identify a Flowering Tree?

See a tree flowering in the spring but aren’t sure what it is? The easiest way to find out is to take a few photos of it and upload it to a plant identification app. My favorite is iNaturalist. Not only will it tell you what the plant is, it will tell you where it is native to.

Get my tips for identifying plants with an app:

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6 Comments

  1. I wanted to get a Huisache/Sweet Acacia sapling. There is nothing listed on the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower site. When googling all I could find where seeds or little 3 inch tall…I guess you could call them saplings? Priced between $7.00 and$16. Was hoping for something a bit more mature priced up to $50. Can you help me with find a Huisache that might produce flowers in maybe 5 or 10 years. (Would prefer 2-3 years)

    1. Hi Sylvia! Thanks for your comment. I had to do a bit of asking around to help with your question. It sounds like native plant nurseries like Rainbow Gardens here in San Antonio will carry huisache, but that their stock got damaged significantly in the Feb. freeze so many don’t have any right now. I say go with a sapling if you can get one, as they are fast growing trees. Or keep a lookout at nurseries in the fall. They may have some by then. Good luck!

  2. My backyard is a barren piece of dirt. I need to plant trees. The soil is awful. Clay and rocks. I have planted an Esparza and Pride of Barbados and it is taking forever to get established especially with the February freeze last year. I want to stop the erosion. There are only weeds and no grass planted but I do not want grass but more of a park like feel for the yard. I’m reading a book Natures Best Hope. Private work in homes creating small parks on the private land. There is shade along the back fence line. Some kind of wild trees grow on the other side of the fence. I have no clue what they are. The backyard is spacious and gets extreme heat in the summer killing off the weeds creating a barren area. Needless to say it is depressing. I know I need to plant something in the barren area along with the tree (s) but my concern is picking the best tree for such extreme conditions. I can trim back the other trees along the fence some I wish I knew what they are. Invasive probably. Thank you

    1. Hi Rebecca, thanks so much for your note! That is awesome you are trying to improve your backyard and you are reading one of the most inspirational books out there! Good work! Do you live in Texas? Let me know what part and I can send you some potential plant lists. Frogfruit would be a great groundcover to get started this fall. It is one of my favorites for attracting tiny pollinators and it likes full sun. Here is some info on it: https://nativebackyards.com/frog-fruit/. As for the trees, I recommend downloading a plant ID app to your phone. They are really good for identifying mystery plants. For a tree you want to get a photo of the full tree, as well as closeups of the bark and leaves. If you need help, send me some pics. I bet there are lots of tough native trees that would work well in your yard.

  3. Hi Haeley,
    We are currently building a house in Dripping Springs and I want to get a head start on planting some flowering native trees. I also have an apple tree my daughter started from seed when she was 4 years old. I do not know what kind of apple tree it is, but I am curious about the best way to care for it, especially since she is 16 now.
    Thank You,
    Thomas

    1. Hi Thomas,

      Thanks so much for your note, and I apologize for the delayed response! That is so neat that you have been nurturing an apple tree for the past 12 years. Has it produced good fruit? I admittedly don’t have any experience with apple trees so can’t be very helpful there. However, I did find this article by Texas Agrilife that looks like it could have some helpful info for you: https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/homefruit/apple/apple.html. Best of luck with the building of your new home! – Haeley

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