Scientific: Caesalpinia cacalaco (synonyms Coulteria mexicana, Russellodendron cacalaco, Poinciana horrida)
Common: cascalote
Family: Fabaceae (Leguminosae)
Origin: Latin America north into central Mexico

Pronounciation: Kay-sal-PIN-ee-a ka-ka-LA-ko

Hardiness zones
12-16, 18-23 (coastal zone 17 with a warm exposure)
USDA 9-11

Landscape Use: Winter seasonal accent, focal point, quick background screen, habitat gardens, small multi-trunk tree.

Form & Character: Used mainly as a large shrub or small tree, arborescent, open, festive, warm, attracting.

Growth Habit: Semi-evergreen, woody, perennial, vigorous and upright to 15 to 25 feet or more with and equal to greater spread. Basal suckering is common making this a somewhat difficult plant to train and maintain as a single trunk standard.

Foliage/texture: Leaves twice pinnately compound, leaflets to 3/4 inch or less, medium to dark green, new growth and stems tinged purple, stems also have large, persistent thorns; medium coarse texture.

Flowers & fruits: Large yellow candelabra flowers on terminal spikes, fruit a yellow green turning to an interesting, reddish-brown pod.

Seasonal color: Festive yellow color in late fall and winter.

Temperature: Cascalote is heat tolerant, and more cold hardy (18oF) than C. pulcherrima.

Light: Full sun

Soil: Tolerant

Watering: Cascalote needs some infrequent deep supplemental water, especially during summer.

Pruning: Cascalote's arborescent habit makes raising the crown and canopy into a small, multi-branched tree most desirable. Prune during spring after bloom.

Propagation: Seed (needs acid scarification), softwood cuttings, grafting, stem air layering.

Disease and pests: White flies are only a minor problem.

Additional comments: Cascalote is a colorful winter-flowering accent or background plant (or small multi-trunk tree) for southwestern landscapes. Its blooms can attract hummingbirds, though hummingbirds are not as prevelant in Phoenix during its bloom time (winter). Cascalote does have stout, protruding stem thorns that make it a plant that should not be used close to pedestrian access ways. However, there's one notable exception to this warning: the cultivar 'Smoothie' (a grafted selection from Mountain States Wholesale Nursery in Glendale, Arizona) lacks stem thorns, and because of this it is presently a wonderful, very popular 'small tree' for water-conserving landscape gardens in the lower deserts of the Southwest.

Medicinal note: Cascalote seed pods are a rich source of tannins, which have antioxidant activity.