Palo verde in bloom

On Saturday we had brunch at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, Maria’s Cantina in Woodland. To my delight the palo verde (Parkinsonia florida or Cercidium floridum) in front of the entrance was still blooming.


One of my favorite trees, the palo verde, or more correctly blue palo verde, is the state tree of Arizona. It’s native to the Sonoran and Mohaje deserts and typically grows to 15-30 ft. In spring and early summer (March to May), the tree is covered with bright yellow flowers, as you can see in the photos below. I’m actually surprised the one at Maria’s Cantina still had so many flowers but I’m not complaining!


The palo verde has the same requirements as other desert dwellers: full sun and excellent drainage. It our land of clay soil and often heavy winter rains (this past winter was an exception), this means amending the soil or planting on a mound.


The leaves are very small, and in the desert the tree is bare most of the year. This may sound ugly, but it isn’t. The bark is such a vibrant bluish-green that I find the palo verde to be beautiful anytime of the year.

Look at the seed pods in the next photo. It’s easy to see that the palo verde is in the pea family (Fabaceae):


On Sunday, I drove to the Ruth Bancroft Garden (RBG) in Walnut Creek to meet up with Loree of Danger Garden and some other garden bloggers who were attending Garden Bloggers Fling in San Francisco. RBG has a palo verde, too. Theirs is the closely related Mexican palo verde (Parkinsonia aculeata). It was still blooming as well although there were fewer flowers left than on the blue palo verde at Maria’s Cantina:



I think blue palo verde would make a great tree for our front yard. We’re still in the mulling-it-over phase but one of the clumping bamboos in front of the house may get the boot soon…


  1. Lovely tree and Sophora microphylla is probably the closest hardy plant we can grow here that has the look of this plant.

    1. Sophora microphylla is just as stunning. I didn't know it was that hardy. Do you have one in your garden?

  2. I have a couple of 1 gallon parkinsonia microphylla (foothill palo verde) that I started from seed last fall, that you could have if you want, Gerhard. I wanted one for the cactus garden to provide light filtered shade to prevent sunburn on the cacti, and grew a few more than I needed, in case the first I planted didn’t make it. It’s about 18 inches high now and growing vigorously, so I think I’m safe giving you one. If you’re willing to search for it, the best one is Parkinsonia “desert museum”, which is a thornless hybrid and has a longer flowering time than the various species.

    1. Sue, that sounds great. I'd be happy to take one in case I can't find a larger one locally. I was hoping to buy a 7-8 ft. specimen but frankly I have no idea if Green Acres or any of our other Sacramento area nurseries even carry palo verde. Parkinsonia florida or microphylla would be fine; I don't want a Parkinsonia aculeata because of the thorns.

  3. I really wish I could plant this tree in my garden, the next best thing would be if you did (and of course take lots of pictures)...


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