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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - July 26, 2011

From: Colorado Springs, CO
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Plant Identification, Shrubs
Title: Name for paloverde look-alike near Colorado Springs
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I don't know where this plant comes from. However, I am wondering what the name of plant of the following description would be. It is a shrub, about 2 to 3 feet tall and wide. It grows in zone 6 to 5b. This may be its northern limit though. Colorado Springs is where I have seen this plant. I have only seen two of them. The appear similar to the Palo Verde of Arizona in branch and leaf habit, in that they have no leaves as seen from a distance and they have green branches.

ANSWER:

None of the paloverdes (Parkinsonia aculeata (Retama), Parkinsonia florida (Blue paloverde), Parkinsonia microphylla (Yellow paloverde), or Parkinsonia texana var. macra (Texas paloverde) grow naturally in Colorado.   The nearest to Colorado is P. aculeata in southwestern Utah and southern New Mexico so it probably isn't one of them.  They probably wouldn't survive in zone 5b or 6.

Here are some possibilities, however, that might be the plant you describe:

Ephedra torreyana (Torrey joint-fir) or, perhaps, the closely related Ephedra viridis (Mormon tea) and Ephedra cutleri (Cutler's jointfir).  Here are more photos and information.  Also, Ephedra nevadensis occurs in eastern Utah.

 Koeberlinia spinosa (Crown of thorns), however, the USDA Plants Database map does not show it occurring in Colorado.

Pleiacanthus spinosus (thorn skeletonweed)  does not occur in Colorado (according to the USDA Plants Database) but does occur in adjacent Utah and here are more photos and information.

 Stephanomeria pauciflora (Brownplume wirelettuce) and here are more photos and information.

If none of the above is the plant you have seen, please visit our Plant Identification page where you will find links to several plant identification forums.  If you have a photo, you can submit it to one of them for identification.

 

From the Image Gallery


Torrey joint-fir
Ephedra torreyana

Mormon tea
Ephedra viridis

Crown of thorns
Koeberlinia spinosa

Brownplume wirelettuce
Stephanomeria pauciflora

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