It has sprung, in the Sonoran Desert.

This last week, the acacias started blooming.  For me, that’s always the mark of springtime.

Here in the Sonoran Desert, the three major flowering trees are the sweet acacia, the palo verde, and the ironwood.  They bloom in that order:  sweet acacias in late February or early March, palo verdes in March-April or so, and ironwoods in late April or early May, usually.  Acacia blooms are dark orangey-yellow little ½” puffballs, and have a very distinct, cloying, powerful scent.  Palo verde blooms are usually (depending on the variety) bright, bright yellow, blanketing the entire tree with delicate flowers.  Ironwoods are more subtle, a very light lavender color, among the grey-green leaves.  Neither palo verdes nor ironwoods have much scent.

acacia farnesiana

acacia farnesiana, seed pod and bloom

I cannot stand the scent of the acacia.  Ugh.  When I was a kid, my mom took my sibs and I, weekly, to the Phoenix Library.  Each branch of the library is named after a native plant.  We usually went to the Acacia Library.  In the springtime, I remember taking a giant gulp of air while still in the car, then sprinting up the acacia-lined path to the entrance while holding my breath, to avoid smelling the nearly unavoidable fragrance.

The palo verdes to be found around the Phoenix area are typically either the Blue Palo Verde, parkinsonia florida (which is NOT native to Florida), or the Mexican Palo Verde, parkinsonia aculeata.

parkinsonia florida bloom, close-up (beautiful!)

parkinsonia florida

I didn’t know until now that the palo verde is an invasive species in many places, worldwide, especially Australia.  I was about to post something preachy about landscaping with only native species, but remembered that, while my front yard has only native plants, my backyard has several non-natives, including the Australian tipu tree.


My fave desert tree is, by far, the desert ironwood, olneya tesota.  Part of it is just because I like purple;  so many native plants around here bloom yellow and only yellow.  Part of its appeal is just because I like the shape of the tree.  And, I think it’s cool that the wood is so beautiful, often burled and two-toned,  not that I think one should go around chopping down ironwood trees.  The wood is so dense that it will sink in water.

A couple of years ago, I looked into visiting the Ironwood Forest National Monument, established by Clinton only days before he left office.  There wasn’t much info on it, especially on the hiking trails I sought, so I called the Tucson field office of the BLM, which administers it.  Well, it turns out that the Ironwood National Monument is a MAJOR illegal immigration corridor, and I was vehemently advised to stay away, especially as I had small children.  Golly.  The field officer blamed the situation Clinton, who had established the monument, but had given no funds for its development or protection.  Hm.  I still want to go, but maybe we’ll wait a few years.

About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on March 18, 2011, in Arizona, Hiking, Library, Life in the Desert, Loving Nature!, Memories. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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