Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tipuana tipu

Aside from being fun to say, Tipuana tipu is a great shade tree for southern gardens (USDA Zones 9a to 11).  It is also known as Pride of Bolivia, Rosewood, or simply Tipu tree.
Tipuana tipu is native to central South America but has been carried by humans to sub-tropical regions around the world.  It is relatively fast-growing and becomes quite large over time.  Older specimens can eventually reach 50 feet tall with an equal spread. 
The leaves are pinnate and the tree canopy is open enough to let dappled sunlight through to the ground.  The tree is semi-deciduous and will let in more light in the winter time.  In some countries, the leaves provide forage for livestock.  I have seen squirrels sit in the tree and pull off one leaflet after another and eat them.
The yellow blooms appear in abundance in spring and continue sporadically throughout the warm months. The profuse flowering turns the ground yellow with fallen blossoms underneath the tree.
They have a very sweet fragrance if you stick your nose right into the blossom.  The blooms also provide food for bees.  Seeds are a winged pod facilitating wind dispersal. This is the only genus among the legumes to have winged seeds.
The wood makes a good timber and is used to make poles. The trunk often oozes red sap.
The trees have a rather gangly growth habit when young, so some pruning to shape may be required.  Tipuana tipu are drought-tolerant once established and the tree is able to fix atmospheric nitrogen, so little fertilization is required.


NanaK said...

That's a really pretty tree I'm not at all familiar with. The name IS fun to say! Thanks for introducing me to it.

Steve Asbell said...

This is yet another subtropical tree that is really hard for me to find around here, even though its supposedly as hardy as a tabebuia. Actually, those are almost as rare around here in Jacksonville too. Do you know of a nursery in your area that has them at a small size? Maybe just a local tree on public property that I can grab some seeds from?
I'm a big fan of trees in the legume category for their open forms and lacy foliage... and the flowers are a great bonus too!

Grower Jim said...

Rainforest Gardener: I don't know of any nurseries that carry this tree. They seemed to be more available in the 1980's when the state was promoting them as recommended urban trees. I do know the theme parks like to use them in their landscaping so if you ever visit, keep your eyes open! My tree produces almost no seed. Possibly because there are no others nearby for cross-pollination. Last year I found one seed under the tree which I planted and now have in a 4" pot!

Kimberly said...

Beautiful tree, Jim. Lovely blooms. I've not heard of it before. I'll keep my eyes open now when I visit the theme parks.

Grower Jim said...

Update: My tree started producing plenty of seeds the following year after this was first posted!

Anonymous said...

Beware! This tree grows very large, very fast.