In spring, blue palo verde (Cercidium floridum) is a spectacular tree when in blossom. Walking along an arroyo near Casa Paloma 2 in Green Valley AZ, where these pictures were taken, I felt the palo verde trees put on a display to rival the cherry blossoms of Washington DC or Japan.
Blue palo verde (the name means “green stick”) grows up to 1,200 feet altitude in the washes and flood plains of the Sonoran and Colorado deserts of Arizona, New Mexico and Southeastern California.
This twiggy little tree or tall shrub has no leaves most of the year. Without leaves, the green bark and twigs perform photosynthesis. After spring rains a few, scattered leaves arise from the axils of small thorns or spines on the twigs. These leaves, with 2 pinnae and 2 or 3 pairs of leaflets, fall with drying conditions.
The blue palo verde flowers occur in loosely branched clusters. The bright yellow flowers have five sepals, five bright yellow petals and 10 stamens. The plump seeds are contained in flattened, unconstricted leguminous pods.
Native Americans ate seed pods, while still immature and small, raw or would cook the young seeds like lima beans. Once matured, the seeds were ground into a flour.
Blue palo verde wood is soft and weak so is not of commercial value. The wood is also unsuited for fuel because it burns rapidly and gives off an unpleasant odor. However, the twigs are excellent browse for deer.
Some botanists place blue palo verde in the genus Parkinsonia. Another common name for blue palo verde is greenbark acacia.
I loved walking through the blue palo verde trees.