In April of 2016, the fuzzy little buds covering the nondescript tree at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge seemed to invite touching. Both softer and more stiff than I’d imagined, they offered no hint of what they might become.
Two weeks later, with the tree in riotous bloom, identification became easier. I’d found an example of a south Texas tree commonly known as Mexican olive.
Native from the Rio Grande valley of Texas south to San Luis Potosi in Mexico, it consistently blooms year-round. Where it’s been introduced into landscapes farther north, in areas such as Austin and San Antonio, its flowering is most intense in late spring and early summer.
Through the spring of 2016, I admired its buds and flowers, but never saw the tree actually bearing fruit. Then, in July of this year, I was scanning the garden at the refuge entrance when I saw a strange, acorn-shaped object that had fallen onto the ground.
Looking up, I realized it had fallen off the Mexican olive. After more than a year, I finally had seen the completion of the tree’s natural cycle: from bud, to flower, to fruit.
Despite my fantasies about Texas tapenade, I learned the fruit is best left to birds, squirrels, deer, and livestock, since the tree is part of the Borage family and isn’t related to edible olives. Although sometimes made into jelly, its consumption can lead to side effects such as dizziness, and it’s generally considered unpalatable to humans.
That said, it’s a beautiful Texas native and a reminder that, when it comes to nature, return visits can yield unpredictable delights.
Comments always are welcome.