Pasadena’s Tree of the Month for May: The Parkinsonia Florida, the ‘Blue Palo Verde’

Cercidium floridum belongs to the Fabaceae family
Article and Photos by Emina Darakjy
Published on May 25, 2022

Each month, Pasadena Beautiful Tree Program Chair Emina Darakjy presents a ‘tree of the month’ in order to educate Pasadenans about the trees around them. Many people drive by trees they admire but have no idea what they are called or what their growing habits are. Pasadena Beautiful was founded in 1960 by a group of volunteers who saw a need to beautify their city and enhance its tree canopy.

Our May tree belongs to the Fabaceae family and is native to Southeastern California, Central and Southern Arizona where it is considered the official State tree, and in northwestern Mexico where its name means “green stick” in Spanish.
The blue palo verde is a moderate-to-fast-growing, small to medium size deciduous tree, 20 to 30 feet tall and about 20 to 25 feet wide with a rounded canopy with arching branches. The leaves are light green, alternate and bipinnately compound.

The trunk on young trees is chartreuse green, turning grayish and scaly as the trees mature. Its branches are green and smooth, making the tree interesting to look at throughout the year, even when it is leafless and not in bloom.

In late spring and into the summer with the leaves absent, the tree produces a spectacular display of bright yellow flowers with tiny red splotches in the center of them. The flowers are lightly scented. The fruit or “pods,” as they are called appear in the fall, are light green, very small and contain seeds in them. The pods are a good source of food for birds and the flowers are a magnet for honey bees.

This is considered a very tough tree. It does better in full sun, but can tolerate some partial shade, and it is very drought-tolerant,preferring a well-drained soil.

The tree is very easy to grow and care for. Should you need to, prune lightly in the summer. This tree is a good candidate for planting under the power lines and the damage to sidewalks from its roots is very low.

Pests to look out for are wood borers, spider mites and root rot. If you keep your tree healthy and not overwater it, you don’t need to worry too much, as pests seem to attack when trees are stressed.

This is a gorgeous tree when in bloom, can be grown as a single or multi trunk form in parks, parking lots and adds a beautiful focal point to one’s garden complementing other drought tolerant plants.

Emina Darakjy is a past president of Pasadena Beautiful and its present Tree Program Chair. Darakjy says she has always had a passion for trees and that she is also involved with several other tree organizations such as California Re-Leaf, the Arbor Day Foundation and American Forests. She is an immediate past president of Street Tree Seminar Inc. and the incoming president of the California Urban Forests Council.

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