By Eddie Rodieck
This is the season for flowering Ironwoods and Palo Verde. Yellow and purple line the desert roadways in the upper bajadas and “microclimate” areas around Tucson.
Ironwood trees can grow throughout the Sonoran Desert but especially flourish in zones called microclimates. A microclimate is a very small or restricted area where the climate varies slightly from the surrounding area. Microclimates are common around hills and valleys where the temperatures can vary by several degrees with warmer temperatures at the tops of slopes and cooler ones at the bottom. This occurs because warmer air rises and cooler air drops. The Ironwoods tend to grow in the upper bajadas where the temperatures remain warm.
Ironwood trees are less susceptible to frost in areas with warmer microclimates. One notable area exists along Orange Grove Road which used to be a vast commercial orange grove plantation. Many of the old orange trees can still be seen today dotting the landscape of the homes in the area.
Ironwood trees grow and last for up to 1,500 years. Even the dead trunks of some trees can last 1,000 years before deteriorating. These old ironwood trees become a living history of the area. For example, the Ironwood tree that Wyatt Earp tied his tent to while mining by the Colorado River is still alive and flourishing today. Some ancient Ironwoods that were cut down in prehistoric times still show evidence of the stone axe cuts used by the Hohokam.
The Palo Verde
Palo Verde Trees grow in an abundance in our desert and are the nursemaids to fledging Saguaros. Young Saguaros can often be seen growing in clusters under the canopy of Palo Verde trees. These Saguaros typically grow together in clusters three feet to six feet apart, tall and majestic. Long after their mother, the nursemaid Palo Verde tree has passed, the remains of the tree can be seen lying at feet of the mighty Saguaro.
The name Palo Verde comes form the Spanish for “green stick”. This is because the bark of the Palo Verde is filled with chlorophyll, allowing it to undergo much of its photosynthesis through the bark, giving it a green appearance. A native to the Sonoran Desert, the Palo Verde is Arizona’s state tree and can live to be between 100 and 400 years old.
In addition to their natural beauty, the seeds of the Palo Verde tree can be harvested. This typically occurs just before the monsoon season when the pods are green and the seeds are tender. You can eat the sweet seeds just as you would peas or edamame. Even the flowers are edible and can add a dash of color to a salad.
Enjoy spring time in the desert. It’s a special time of year with beautiful tree blossoms, cactus flowers, and a plethora of other things to see, if you know what you’re looking for. If you would like more information about Ironwood or Palo Verde trees, please contact Cherry Landscape at (520) 292-9776.