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Littleleaf Paloverde

Natural History

The Littleleaf Paloverde (also called Yellow or Foothill Paloverde) is a member of the Pea Family. It appears as a multi-trunked large shrub or small tree that grows to 25 feet in height. The branches are stiff and usually all grow in an upwards direction, which allows it to be distinguished from its cousin the Blue Palo Verde, whose lower branches tend to droop to the ground. Each twig on the branches of the tree ends in a stiff thorn which grows to 2 inches in length. As the name suggests, the elliptical leaflets of the plant are quite small, growing to only 1/16th of an inch. Leaves are dropped during the drier months to reduce evaporation (draught deciduous). Without leaves, photosynthesis is carried on by the the chlorophyll in the bark which gives the tree its green color.

The Palo Verde is the state tree of Arizona. Palo Verde means 'green stick' in Spanish.

The plant blooms between March - May and produces pale yellow flowers with 5 petals to 0.5 inches in width. Flowers are pollinated by numerous species of bees that gather the pollen for food for their grubs. Flowers are followed by a cylindrical pod (sort of like a pea pod) which grows to 3 inches in length. After seeds mature, they fall to the ground where they are eaten and dispersed by a variety of rodents including ground squirrels and pocket mice who gather and bury the seeds to eat later. Seeds were also used by Native Americans who would eat young seeds much like peas. The paloverde typically grows in dry rocky areas along hillsides and in low lying deserts at elevations between 500 - 4000 feet.


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