Each month, Pasadena Beautiful Tree Program Chair Emina Darakjy presents a ‘tree of the month’ in order to educate Pasadenans about the trees around them. Many people drive by trees they admire, but have no idea what they are called, or what their growing habits are. Pasadena Beautiful was founded in 1960 by a group of volunteers who saw a need to beautify their city and enhance its tree canopy.
This tree is a member of the Fabaceae, or pea family. It is found in Bolivia, Argentina and the southern region of Brazil.
The tipu tree is a moderately fast-growing tree, can reach a height of 60 feet with an equally wide spread, which makes it a very good choice for a shade tree. In fact, in 2017, a Tipu in Goleta, California was nominated and listed as a “Champion Tree” on the California Big Tree Registry. The tree measures 55 feet high, with a trunk circumference of 197 inches and a crown of 113 feet.
In the winter, the foliage is deciduous for a short time. Its leaves are a vivid shade of green about 10 inches long, pinnately compound, with 11-12 leaflets.
The trunk is very attractive, reddish-brown in color with fissured bark.
The flowers are a striking shade of yellow to apricot, when they appear in early spring and the flowers last through the summer. When they drop off, the flowers form a dazzling gold carpet underneath the tree canopy. Some people may see this as a nuisance while others view it as an attribute.
Fruits resembling a bean pod with flat wings, appear in the summer. The pods twirl when cascading to the ground.
Even though they are non-fragrant, the flowers still attract many bees and butterflies. Birds like to nest in the tree’s thick canopy, and the Tipu is considered deer-resistant.
The tree is widely planted in the warmer regions of California, and tolerates many soil conditions, but performs better in well drained soil, and likes a sunny to partially sunny location.
The Tipu requires deep watering when young but once established, it is fairly drought tolerant.
The tipu tree also needs ample room to grow. It can be planted as a street tree, in medians or in a park, as its roots are aggressive and can cause damage to sidewalks. The tree is susceptible to aphids, psyllids and scale infestations.
Because of its large size, this tree is not suitable for planting under power lines.
When looking for a large tree that provides plenty of shade especially in a park, look no further than the Tipu.
Emina Darakjy is a past president of Pasadena Beautiful and its present Tree Program Chair. Darakjy says she has always had a passion for trees and that she is involved with several other tree organizations such as California Re-Leaf, the Arbor Day Foundation and American Forests. She is a past president of Street Tree Seminar Inc. and the present president of the California Urban Forests Council.