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Parkinsonia

Palo Verde
Fabaceae (Leguminosae)
Deciduous, Trees

Tough, trouble-free desert trees valued for floral display, shade, and colorful bark. Clusters of small, bright yellow flowers nearly hide the spiny branches. Lightly filtered shade is cast by an intricate canopy of twigs rather than by the leaves, which are divided into tiny leaflets and quickly drop in drought or cold. Prune only to enhance the form, removing crossing, wayward, or too-low branches; hold off on pruning when temperatures rise above 100°F (38°C). Flowering branches are attractive in arrangements.

Parkinsonia aculeata
Parkinsonia aculeata

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Parkinsonia aculeata

Native to southwestern U.S. and Mexico. Grows to 15–30 ft. tall and wide. Yellow-green bark, spiny twigs, and a picturesque form. Numerous yellow flowers in loose clusters to 7 in. long. Long bloom season in spring; intermittent bloom throughout year. Flowers are followed by 2–6-in.-long seedpods that mature in summer; litter drop is a problem. Thorns and sparse foliage rule it out of tailored gardens. Reseeds freely in the desert. Tolerates alkaline soil.

Parkinsonia floridum

Native to the deserts of Southern California, Arizona, and Baja California. In gardens, it grows fast to 35 ft. tall and 30 ft. wide. Bluish green leaves and branches. Bright pure yellow flowers in 2–4 1/2-in. clusters appear in spring.

Parkinsonia microphyllum

Native to Sonoran Desert of Southern California, Arizona, and Baja California. Slow growth to 20 ft. high and wide. Yellow flowers and yellow-green bark and leaves.

Parkinsonia praecox

Native Sonoran Desert to South America. Moderate growth to 20 ft. tall and wide. Umbrella form; lime green bark and leaves divided into 12 to 14 pairs of 1/4-in. leaflets.

Parkinsonia ‘Desert Museum’

This hybrid involving P. aculeata, P. microphyllum, and P. floridum combines the best traits of all three. It grows to 20 ft. tall and as wide in 3 to 5 years. Large (1 in.) blossoms appear over a long period; flowering is most profuse in spring, with rebloom possible in summer. Light green stems and leaves. A clean, thornless tree that produces few seedpods and scant litter.

 

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