Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Mexican Buckeye
Ungnadia speciosa

Family: Sapindaceae (sap-in-DAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Ungnadia (oong-NAY-dee-uh) (Info)
Species: speciosa (spee-see-OH-suh) (Info)

20 members have or want this plant for trade.


12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

12-15 in. (30-38 cm)
12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Seed is poisonous if ingested
Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring


Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Soil pH requirements:
7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

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There are a total of 36 photos.
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10 positives
2 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive bpramuk On Apr 22, 2014, bpramuk from Napa, CA wrote:

One small specimen (about 5' X 5') was found growing in a landscape here in Napa CA.

When I was asked to identify it last year, I narrowed it down to the Sapindeae family.

Today April 22, 2014, I was in the neighborhood and thought to check and see if it was blooming, in hopes of help with identification.

Indeed it was. The flower structure and color helped me narrow it down to the Genus and species Ungnadia speciosa.

Cool little tree!

It looks happy in a sunny border, so far from its native territory.

How it got there, I don't know.

Positive LazLo On Dec 9, 2013, LazLo from Austin, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

This small tree is super easy to propogate from seeds. Sow in moist potting soil at a depth of 2"-3" after soaking in warm water overnight, then dusting with ground cinnamon (a natural antifungal agent).   They can be direct sown but my best experience with them is starting in a 1 or 2 gallon pot and transplanting out when 4"-6" tall.

Mexican Buckeye is not impressive at the start - - because it begins breaking dormancy by focusing its energy on developing a deep tap root. When you see a root emerging from the bottom of your starting pot it is definitely time to transplant into a garden bed or re-potting in something about twice the depth of the first pot.

Almost all of the first year plant development is below the surface with the second year showing a spurt of growth to 2 ft. - 3 ft. Flowers can develop in the late summer of the second year, but most typically in the late spring of the 3rd year, getting more impressive with each passing year - - up to a height of 15 feet.

Positive tuney On Sep 25, 2010, tuney from Weatherford, TX wrote:

When we purchased this property there was a nut bearing tree I finally found out it's name, Ungnadia Speciosa. It is a lovely small tree, blooming right after the redbud. Everything I have read warns that the 'nuts' are poisonous. I have tried one, not very good, but I felt no ill effects. Does anyone know how poisonous? I don't plan to eat anymore nuts to find out for myself. The tree grows without any attention at all.

Positive Kendalia On Nov 3, 2008, Kendalia from Kendalia, TX wrote:

Grows wild on my land near Kendalia. Easy to grow from seeds. The soil here is very alkaline.

Positive redtreerunner On Jul 19, 2007, redtreerunner from Austin, TX wrote:

Ungnadia is a neat plant that I really just discovered this year when one (that I had never noticed before) was suddenly flowering profusely at the entrance to the building I work in. The flowers seemed so odd that I had to figure out what it was, and I was really happy to find out that it was a native plant here in Texas, and not some exotic ornamental! A couple of weeks ago I noticed the fruits were mature and cracking open, so I collected the three seeds from one and stuck them in an old pot of soil in my office window and watered them. No scarification or anything (it didn't even occur to me honestly). Within a few days all three had germinated, and after two weeks the seedlings are two inches tall. Spiffy. I look forward to planting them out in my yard eventually.

Positive stoner On Oct 10, 2006, stoner from Arlington, TX (Zone 7b) wrote:

started 2 from seed. scarifed seed & soaked in fish emulsion for a few days before planting in pots. After 1 yr planted 1 in early day sun and 2nd in mostly shade of native oak & elm. Both doing great. Both flower. Great fall color. Both about 6-7ft tall in yr 4.

Positive michaelbrown On Nov 17, 2005, michaelbrown from Austin, TX wrote:

I picked seeds from a mature plant outside the Texas General Land Office in Austin in mid-October. I used a file on the hard shell the same way I did with Texas Mountain Laurel seeds. Three of the five seeds I planted sprouted within two weeks. The other two still have not sprouted even after four weeks. I tried planting some without scarifying them 8 months ago and still haven't seen any sprouts. Maybe in a couple years we'll see something. Sarify them before you plant them. Once they emerge, the new sprouts are a beautiful red. The new leaves gradually turn green while the stalk remains red.

Positive Super65 On Oct 10, 2004, Super65 from Belton, TX wrote:

As with all Buckeyes, seeds are somewhat poisonous, but this is not a major consideration. The leaves, which resemble Pecan, also are poison to livestock, but are rarely browsed.
Because of its drought tolerance, attractive flowers, and size, Mexican Buckeye has use in xeriscaping.
Mexican Buckeye is usually a shrub, but can become a small tree to 30 feet. The specimens I examined were all shrub-like, about 14 feet tall, growing on a rocky limestone bluff and down into a canyon at Lake Belton near the highway 36 bridge. Some of these specimens were growing under a canopy of larger trees and appeared to be thriving well in what looked to be a shady location - one was in full sun.

Neutral doggone2 On Jul 2, 2004, doggone2 from Pipe Creek, TX wrote:

I worked on a landscape just outside of Bandera towards Medina where there were many buckeyes growing underneath the established trees next to the Medina River. They were quite nicely shaped, had many seed pods as evidence of heavy flowering. The resident said they flowered very prettily about the same time as redbuds.

Positive frostweed On Mar 30, 2004, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Mexican Buckeye is a slow growing shrub or small tree. I started mine from seed and it took four years to reach maturity, but it certainly is worth the wait. The flowers look very much like those of the Redbud but have a deeper burgundy color. The leaves look like those of the Pecan tree and the seed pods are very interesting. We like this shrub very much and are proud to have it in our garden.

Neutral Wingnut On Oct 22, 2002, Wingnut from Spicewood, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

I haven't ever grown this plant, but have collected seeds from ones I've seen in person. The seeds have a hard coat, so I suspect that you should scarify before sowing, but I'm not sure. Once planted, it is imperative to keep the soil moist ~ do not let it dry out ~ until the seedlings emerge. Seeds need lots of moisture to sprout, but once it reaches some size, it will thrive in drought conditions. Kind of weird, huh?

Positive Chili On Aug 28, 2002, Chili from Raleigh, NC wrote:

I got this plant several years ago at a 'plant giveaway' at Raulston Arboretum. It has proven to be quite hardy (I forgot about it in its pot for a long time and it recovered). It has done well thru our record drought. It flowered this spring and is flowering again now.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Chandler, Arizona
Huntington, Arkansas
Napa, California
Shawnee Mission, Kansas
New Orleans, Louisiana
Opelousas, Louisiana
Raleigh, North Carolina
Florence, South Carolina
Alice, Texas
Arlington, Texas (2 reports)
Austin, Texas (5 reports)
Belton, Texas (2 reports)
Brownwood, Texas
Cedar Park, Texas
Cibolo, Texas
Copperas Cove, Texas
De Leon, Texas
Geronimo, Texas
Helotes, Texas
Hondo, Texas
Iredell, Texas
Kempner, Texas
Kendalia, Texas
Lake Dallas, Texas
Leander, Texas
Liberty Hill, Texas
New Braunfels, Texas
Rowlett, Texas
San Antonio, Texas (2 reports)
Spicewood, Texas
Tarpley, Texas
Weatherford, Texas
Willis, Texas

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