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Marcus, Joseph A.
Parkinsonia aculeata L.
Retama, Paloverde, Mexican Palo Verde, Jerusalem thorn, Lluvia de Oro
USDA Symbol: PAAC3
Paloverde is a spiny shrub or small tree, as high as 30 feet but normally half that, with long, graceful, slightly drooping branches bearing many long, delicate leaves and sprays of yellow flowers. The 5 yellow petals of the flower, 1/3–2/3 inch long, are almost equal, but 1 has a honey gland at its base and soon becomes red; it remains on the stalk longer than the others. The Paloverde has a profusion of blossoms through the warm months, especially after rains. The seedpods are 3–5 inches long, narrow, and constricted between the seeds. The leaves are unusual. The leaf stem produces 2 stalks, almost parallel and 15–18 inches long, with 10–25 pairs of leaflets on each. The leaflets usually fall off during the summer, and the stems then carry on the function of leaves.
Native from central Texas south as far as northern South America and west to Arizona, this is a very fast growing, graceful-looking tree for poor soils, with unusual green bark and a long bloom period. It is drought-, heat-, and saline tolerant. This beautiful but thorny tree does best in spots that are neither too moist nor too dry. With too much moisture, it will seed out aggressively. With too little moisture, it will lose all its leaves. The drought leaf loss is not necessarily an aesthetic problem, though, because chlorophyll production shifts to the trunk and branches, rendering them an even brighter green. The word Jerusalem in the common name Jerusalem Thorn does not refer to the Middle Eastern city but is a corruption of the Spanish and Portuguese word girasol, meaning turning toward the sun. This tree requires full sun.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Tree Leaf Retention: Deciduous Leaf Arrangement: Alternate Leaf Complexity: Bipinnate Leaf Shape:
Linear Breeding System:
, Monoecious Inflorescence: Raceme Size Notes:
Normally 12-15 ft but can reach 36 ft. Leaf:
Light green Flower:
Flowers in 5-6 inch racemes Fruit:
Light green, 2-4 inch legume Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug
, UT Native Distribution:
Southern half of Texas west to Arizona, south through Mexico and Central America to northern South America. Naturalized elsewhere; to 4500 (1372 m). Native Habitat:
Flood plains, bottomland, hillside chaparral, disturbed grasslands
Growing ConditionsWater Use:
Low , Medium Light Requirement:
Sun Soil Moisture:
Dry , Moist Drought Tolerance:
Medium Heat Tolerant:
Well-drained soils of any type: sands, loams, clays, caliche, etc. Does well in disturbed soils and poor soils and tolerates salinity and occasional flooding. Conditions Comments:
Requires full sun and good drainage but will grow in any soil type. Defoliates during severe drought, when its trunk and branches will become an even brighter green as chlorophyll production shifts there from the leaves. Give protection from north winds in cold regions, as it can be damaged by frost. In
moist soils, will seed out so much that it can become difficult to control.
A popular, fast-growing tree
widely used as an ornamental and hedge plant in warm regions. Use Wildlife:
Nectar-insects, Browse, Seeds-granivorous birds, Seeds-Small mammals, Nesting site, Cover Use Food:
The foliage and pods have been used as emergency forage for livestock, as well as by wildlife. Bees produce fragrant honey from the flowers. Conspicuous Flowers:
Birds , Butterflies Nectar Source:
PropagationPropagation Material: Seeds , Semi-hardwood Cuttings
Description: Untreated seed or semi-hardwood cuttings taken in summer.
Seed Collection: Collect when pods are dry and seeds are plump and brown.
Seed Treatment: None required but soaking in hot water for 1 minute can help.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Prune to maintain a single or multiple trunk look. To prevent drought defoliation, water during dry spells. To prevent aggressive seeding out, cut back on watering.
National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
From the National Suppliers Directory
According to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:
Far South Wholesale Nursery
- Austin, TX
Herbarium Specimen(s)NPSOT 0328
Collected May 22, 1987 in Bexar County by Harry CliffeNPSOT 0974
Collected Oct 12, 1994 in Bexar County by Harry CliffeNPSOT 0434
Collected May 26, 1993 in Bexar County by Cecil MayoNPSOT 0141
Collected Sept. 28, 1991 in Bexar County by Lottie Millsaps
Wildflower Center Seed BankLBJWC-1193
Collected 2012-08-12 in Hays County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Record Last Modified: 2010-02-09
Research By: TWC Staff, GDG