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Products > Tipuana tipu
Tipuana tipu - Tipu Tree

Note: This plant is not currently for sale. This is an archive page preserved for informational use.  
Image of Tipuana tipu
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Tree
Family: Fabaceae = Pea Family
Origin: Bolivia (South America)
Flower Color: Yellow
Bloomtime: Summer
Synonyms: [Machaerium tipu]
Height: 20-30 feet
Width: 20-30 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 25-30° F
Tipuana tipu (Tipu Tree) - A moderately fast growing semi-deciduous tree with fissured bark and a flat crown that is usually wider than the tree's height, which is typically seen as 30 to 40 feet tall but large older specimens have been noted in California that are 50 to 70 feet tall by over 100 feet wide, looking a bit like the large Monkey Pod trees (Samanea saman) that one might see in Hawaii or Florida. The 10 inch long compound pinnate leaves are divided into many rounded lime colored opposite leaflets, which are only briefly deciduous during short periods from late winter to late spring, depending on the location. The golden yellow flowers are abundant in late spring to early summer and will carpet the ground beneath the tree when they drop. The fruit that follows is an interesting single seeded winged samara that looks like the unrelated fruit of a maple tree. Plant in full sun and give an occasional deep watering – fairly drought tolerant once established but best not to over irrigate as this produces weaker wood. It is heat tolerant, growing in inland valleys and the low desert, and reliably cold hardy to around 22°F, and noted as tolerating short drops to as low as 18°F. Give this big attractive tree ample room because it will get big in a relatively short time and prune early to give good structure. While some consider the flower drop to be messy, others think the carpet of yellow flowers a decorative attribute of the this tree that comes from the forests of southern Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina. The name for this monotypic genus (having only one species) and the species name both come from a South American name for the tree. Other common names include Rosewood, Yellow Jacaranda and Pride of Bolivia. It has been planted extensively in Southern Europe, Algeria and Southern California where it has been praised for its beauty and the rapid-growth that provides quick shade but its large size, relatively weak wood and invasive roots that can lift paving, limits its use as a street tree or in gardens too small to accommodate it. In October 2008 a new insect pest called the Tipu Psyllid (Platycorypha nigrivirga) was found on this tree in Carlsbad (San Diego County), California and has spread up the coast, likely from nursery shipments. This pest occasionally causes problems with leaf curling, premature leaf drop and honeydew that causes black sooty mold on leaves and stems and drops on objects below. While this pest certainly is a detriment to this tree, it also had a surprising benefit that was discovered during the December 2014 Audubon bird count when it was discovered that Townsend’s Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrush, Black-and-white Warblers, Tennessee Warblers and sapsuckers were feeding on this pest or at least attracted to the infested trees in a parking lot in downtown Santa Barbara. Harry Butterfield in his Dates of Introduction of Trees and Shrubs to California (UC Davis 1964) noted that Dr. Francesco Franceschi (AKA Emanuele Orazio Fenzi) introduced this species into cultivation in California in 1897. The seed was likely provided to him by his friend David Fairchild, who around this period was known to have sent seed back from the Botanic Gardens of Buenos Aires. Franceschi was then living in Santa Barbara and the oldest known tree in the area is in the public park that bears his name. The largest specimen in the area however is one that occupies a hill overlooking the eastern Goleta Valley on the old Carrigan Ranch property. This tree was measured in 2017 at 55 feet tall by 113 feet wide with a trunk diameter of 197 inches and is now listed as the current Champion Tipuana tipu on the California Big Tree Registry. There is also an amazing large specimen in the Chavez Ravine Arboretum in Griffith Park in Los Angeles and another planted in the early mid 1920s in Pacific Beach (San Diego County) by noted horticulturist Kate Sessions, who is fondly called "Mother of Balboa Park". This tree was in front of Session's original nursery site, now a Registered Historical Landmark (California Historical Landmark No. 764). Kate Sessions was a friend of Dr. Franceschi and also corresponded with David Fairchild, so perhaps received some of the first seeds or plant that were distributed by Franceschi from his Santa Barbara nursery. We grew this wonderful large tree from 1980 until 2014 and only discontinued growing it because it was being grown by many other nurseries, so plentiful on the market.  Information displayed on this page about  Tipuana tipu is based on the research conducted about it in our library and from reliable online resources. We also note those observations we have made of this plant as it grows in the nursery's garden and in other gardens, as well how crops have performed in our nursery field. We will incorporate comments we receive from others, and welcome to hear from anyone who may have additional information, particularly if they share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.