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Products > Parkinsonia aculeata
Parkinsonia aculeata - Mexican Palo Verde
Image of Parkinsonia aculeata
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Tree
Family: Fabaceae = Pea Family
Origin: Central America (North America)
Flower Color: Yellow
Bloomtime: Summer
Synonyms: [Cercidium aculeata]
Height: 15-20 feet
Width: 15-20 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Summer Dry: Yes
Deer Tolerant: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 20-25° F
Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican Palo Verde) – A small picturesque round-headed tree of 15-20 feet tall with open lacy foliage that yields a pleasant dappled shade – this foliage is at first a midrib with tiny leaflets which drop all to leave just the midrib in summer months . It has a trunk and branches with yellow-green bark and within the fine-textured foliage at leaf axils the small spines are nestled. Showy, fragrant yellow flowers with throats having orange-reddish color spots have a peak bloom period in later spring and early summer with scattered bloom year-round. After flowering a tan fruit pod forms with a papery sheath. Good for filtering sun to create light shade and very drought tolerant once established. Plant in full sun in most any soil but grows best in a sandy well drained soil. Tolerates alkaline conditions and extreme drought but will also grow in a lawn if soil is well drained. Hardy to at least 18° F with some damage to younger trees at this temperature but older trees handling a bit less. Mexican Palo Verde occasionally gets powdery mildew along the coast or where over-irrigated but this goes away with drier weather – the spineless and sterile hybrid that is called Parkinsonia (or Cercidium) 'Desert Museum' is a wonderful plant in inland gardens and certainly better in the low desert because it does not reseed, but this plant has proven more affected by powdery mildew and we cannot recommend its planting here in Santa Barbara – trees just over our first range of mountains are not so affected. Though called the Mexican Palo Verde the natural range of Parkinsonia aculeata reaches as far north as Arizona and Texas and then south into South America and has also naturalized in low desert washes in California; for this reason there is concern about it being an invasive plant in these areas but we don't see this plant reseeding along the coast. The name for the genus honors John Parkinson (1567-1650) an early English botanist and apothecary who became the royal botanist to King Charles I. The specific epithet is from the Latin word 'aculeat' and means "with prickles" or "prickly" in reference to the thorns. The common name Palo Verde, is Spanish meaning “green stick” and is in reference to its green trunks and branches and though it is usually called Mexican Palo Verde this species' natural range does reach as far north as southern Arizona and south into South America. 

This information about Parkinsonia aculeata displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.