Known as: Retama, Jerusalem Thorn, Horsebean
Scientific name: Parkinsonia aculeata
Did You Know?
Palo Verde trees are extremely drought tolerant and will shift photosynthesis to the branches and trunks of the tree in very dry conditions, causing the tree to turn a vibrant green color and drop its leaves. This shift also occurs during the cold and dry winter months making Palo Verde an excellent choice for winter color.
Despite its reputation as an extremely thorny plant, the “Desert Museum” variety of Palo Verde is thorn-less and produces even more abundant flowers than the other commercially available varieties.
Palo Verde is a small, fast growing multi trunked tree with a weeping, spreading canopy to around 15’-20’ tall with bright green foliage and an abundance of fragrant yellow flowers throughout the spring and summer. It is popular for its fragrant, bright yellow blooms, drought tolerance, and open/airy form. Palo Verge’s abundance of blooms and its overall soft appearance makes it perfect for mass planting, accent planting, native gardens, and xeric landscapes. Palo Verde requires full sun and good drainage and its bark is easily damaged by landscape maintenance equipment.
Palo Verde’s native range extends through Central Texas south to northern South America and west to the Sonoran Desert. Palo Verde is heat and drought tolerant, has low water requirements, and requires little fertilizer once established but is sensitive to frost. The narrow, drooping, light green foliage does not produce deep shade and can drop off in very dry conditions. The flowers attract bees and other nectarivorous insects while small mammals and birds eat its seeds. Palo Verde blooms from spring through summer.
Plants are readily available commercially, typically in 15 to 30 gallon and 24” to 36” box sizes. Desert Museum Palo Verde are typically a little more expensive and in higher demand than other varieties.
Avoid planting varieties other than “Desert Museum” near walkways or other pedestrian areas as all other varieties of Palo Verde have numerous thorns. Also make sure that it is in a well-drained, sunny spot and do not over-water.