Scientific: Ebenopsis ebano (formerly Pithecellobium flexicaule)
Common: Texas ebony, ebony blackhead, ape's earring
Family: Fabaceae (Leguminosae)
Origin: South Texas south into old Mexico, Chihuahuan desert native

Pronounciation: E-ben-OP-sis e-BAN-oo

Hardiness zones
USDA 8 (stem dieback)-11 (arid and semi arid regions best)

Landscape Use: Slow growing but eventually becoming a large upright shade tree for xeric landscapes, great bonsai tree.

Form & Character: Stiff, don't get too close, stately, green + desert = prime for urban areas. Very briefly deciduous in late Spring before flowering if in a no irrigation area, otherwise evergreen.

Growth Habit: Woody, evergreen, perennial tree, slow growth rate to eventually 40 feet height and spread with multiple trunks; bark smooth when young to rough and fissured with age. Young branches extend in a characteristic zig-zag pattern. Don't believe the "reports" that this is really a little tree, it just grows slow is all.

Foliage/texture: Alternate, pinnately compound leaf with 3 to 5 pairs of oblong to obovate, small leaflets, medium green, hidden stipular spines to 1/2 inch long set under foliage; medium texture.

Flowers & fruits: Small, musty fragrant, cream-colored flowers in dense, slender, terminal spikes to 1.5 inches long, flowers strongly attract bees. Fruit are an immense dark brown pods 6 to 12 inches long, sometimes curved or contorted, segmented, tardily dehiscent.

Seasonal color: Cream flowers in early summer, but can also flower after monsoon in early fall. Fruit pods are persistent and visible. From an ornamental perspective, the fruit are big, bad, and ugly, and are the only non-aesthetic part of this tree.

Temperature: Tolerant of Phoenix heat and cold, however, sunscald on exposed southwestern trunks of trees is common. Texas ebony will drop its leaves and go deciduous if air temperatures fall into the low 20oFs. It will have stem dieback if temperatures fall below 15o to 20oF.

Light: Full sun

Soil: Highly tolerant of desert soils.

Watering: Texas ebony is very drought tolerant once established. Providing supplemental water to young specimens will increase growth rate.

Pruning: Texas ebony grows a dense canopy to the ground in its native habitat. Given this habit, crown raising is the principal pruning technique that one will practice over time in order to train specimens into typically what are beautiful single or multi-trunk trees with upright and broadly spreading canopies at maturity.

Sadly, 'horticultural clods' (lazy, dull of mind, and armed with gas powered hedge trimmers and leaf blowers) seem to always want to shear these trees when young into a large cartoon-like "lollypop-on-a-stick". Young trees brutalized in this manner will grow a dense matrix of crossing and intermingled branches. Eventually these young victimized trees will grow too large to continue (in)effectively this mis-practice (I call them them "trees with a sidewall haircut"). Trees abused and mis-shapened like this will likely need years and years worth of corrective or restorative pruning, or else should be removed.

Propagation: The seeds have an unusually hard epiderm (coat) that needs a scarification treatment (soaking in 95% sulfuric acid, processing in a rock tumbler, or manually chipping or filing) in order to readily germinate.

Disease and pests: Palo verde borer beetles are a problem with Texas ebony in Phoenix during summers.

Additional comments: Texas ebony is a slow growing and beautifully spreading tree that needs an appropriate large landscape space in which to slowly and gracefully mature. Sadly though, Texas ebony is often mis-cast in the landscape as a small feature. Beware, of the stipular spines that can draw blood! Texas ebony can be vicious to work with. Trained and knowledgable folks (ISA Certified Arborists) will wear proper attire and protective equipment, ie., gloves, long sleeve shirts and pants, and protective eye wear, when working with these trees.

For you woodworker types: In wood working circles, this tree is known for its rich heartwood that is described as dark reddish-brown tinged with purple. The heartwood is unusally close grained, strong, dense and oily. Woodworkers report that it finishes naturally with a robust luster. Ebenopsis is a small genus consisting of two species native to the United States.