AZ Arboretums

Olneya tesota

Desert zinnia

Common: Desert ironwood, Palo-de-hierro
Family: Fabaceae (Leguminosae)
Origin: Desert native found in warm weather areas of California, Arizona and northern Mexico
Sunset Zone: 12, 13
Light: Full to reflected sun
Soil: Good drainage is preferred
Water: No water once established. Best with periodic irrigation.
Temperature: Deciduous in hard frosts, cannot endure prolonged freezes

Plant grows near washes, where water is usually available. Gives filtered shade for other desert species. Branches erect in youth, later spreading. Naturally low-branching outline. Often multi-trunked.

At distance, similar in appearance to olive tree.

Medium-sized to large tree. Grows slowly to 25-30 ft. tall, with equal spread. Evergreen. Gray-green leaves, with two spines at each base, finely divided into many leaflets. Old leaves fall after bloom, with new ones replacing them quickly.

In early summer, clusters of pinkish lavender, 1/2-in. long sweet pea-shaped flowers put on good show; 2-in. seed pods follow. Wood is hard, heavy and dense, and valued for carving. Spiny branches, slow to develop.