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Goldenball Lead Tree


OTHER COMMON NAMES:  Oldenball Lead Tree, Wahootree, Little leaf lead tree, Lemonball, Little Leucaena, Golden lead ball, Momosa, Wahoo-tree.

BOTANICAL NAME:  Leucaena retusa (loo-SEE-nah reh-TOO-sah )

FAMILY:  Leguminous (Legume Family)

TYPE:  Deciduous ornamental tree

HEIGHT:  12 to 25 feet

SPREAD:  8 to 15 feet

FINAL SPACING: 12 to 15 feet

NATURAL HABITAT AND PREFERRED SITE: Native to the dry canyons of West Texas. Grows in the Trans-Pecos in far West and Central Texas areas. Primarily in hard to get to areas such as ditches, fenced rows and craggy niches where the grazing animals can’t get to and eat the plant. It likes dry, well-drained, rocky limestone soils as well as igneous rock and sandier soils. Will grow in sun to partial shade.

IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION:  Shrub or small tree with delicate foliage and distinctive round, golden-yellow flowers in the spring and summer. Open branching with Flacey foliage and is naturally multi-trunked.


FLOWERS AND FRUIT:  Flowers bloom from April to October. They are the most showy in spring but also flower again after every rain throughout the summer. Flowers are bright yellow, compact with round heads at the end of branches blooming primarily May to June. Fruit is a woody legume. When ripe the pod twists open to disperse the seeds. Fruit matures in the late summer as long pods, 3 to 10 inches long, 1/3 to ½ inch wide. The seed are thin, brown and lustrous.

BARK:  Light gray to brown becoming scaly with age but smooth on young branches. The young branches are often bright brown. Flaking, cinnamon colored, interesting looking mature bark.

FOLIAGE:  Leaves are alternate, compound, bright green, and lacey in appearance. Leaflets are small, rounded and bluish green.

CULTURE:  Golden ball lead tree needs well-drained soils and does well in extremely rocky, infertile soils. It will grow in sand or clay as long as drainage is good. Very low water and fertilizer requirements. Under good conditions it will have moderate growth. It does need some protection from winds because the wood is extremely brittle and high winds and ice storms can cause frequent breakage.

PROBLEMS:  Wind damage, root rot if over watered, freeze damage in the northern part of the state and destruction by browsing animals.

PROPAGATION:  Gather the pods in late summer when they are brown and beginning to dry but before splitting open and coming falling to the ground. Spread seed to dry for a few days and dust with cornmeal and diatomaceous earth prior to storing in glass containers at room temperature. Golden lead ball tree is easy to grow from seed. Fresh untreated seed and will germinate in 2 to 3 weeks. Although germinating quickly, they tend to grow slowly and become spindly if not placed in strong sunlight and fertilized with mild organic fertilizers. Semi-hardwood cuttings are taken in the summer and root fairly well if kept under mist. Transplanting is rather difficult because of the long tap root and less than dense root system.

INSIGHT:  Golden ball lead tree is highly palatable to grazing animals and can be taken out of its native habitat easily if the animals have access to the plants. That goes for your landscaping too if you live in central Texas. Golden ball lead tree is questionably cold tolerant north of Dallas/Fort Worth. This information comes from the Dirt Doctor's Texas Trees.


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