Kidney Wood Tree

If wandering around the hill country, you notice a delicate vanilla-like fragrance, look around to see if there are dainty white blossoms clustered on a small, open-branched tree.  When the leaves are crushed, they smell like a tangerine.

Kidney trees in bloom. (Courtesy of Paula Richards)
Kidneywood trees in bloom.
(Courtesy of Paula Richards)

This is the kidneywood tree, or bee bush.  It blooms off and on from May through October and is a welcome sight for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and humans, especially in our hot dry summers.  Deer also find it very tasty.  Like other drought tolerant trees, it has small, narrow leaves to minimize water loss.  While it can grow over 10 feet high with sufficient water, in the wild, it looks more like an overgrown shrub.

Butterfly sipping nectar from kidney tree bloom. (Courtesy of Paula Richards)
Queen butterfly sipping nectar from kidneywood tree bloom.
(Courtesy of Paula Richards)

The nectar makes very good honey, dyes can be made from the wood, and a medicinal tea from the leaves.  The tea has been used to treat kidney aliments, which is how the tree got its name.