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in Tucson, Phoenix,
Arizona and California

Gardening in Tucson, Phoenix, Arizona and California

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Lysiloma watsonii: Littleleaf False Tamarind / Desert Fern

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Description
Form: Multi-trunked shrub, or with pruning, tree.
Leaf retention: Semi-evergreen.
Growth rate: Slow to moderate.
Mature Size: 20' high and wide.
Flowers: Creamy white puffballs, 1/2" diameter, in terminal clusters.
Bloom: Spring.
Fruit: Flat seed pod, constricted around seed, turning dark brown.
Leaves: Tiny green leaflets, fern-like appearance, turn yellow, then drop mid-spring and are quickly replaced. Provides light filtered shade.
Stems: No thorns.
Roots: Nitrogen-fixing*. Produces root and stem suckers at base.
Wildlife: Attracts butterflies, bees. Caterpillar food plant for some species of butterflies.
Toxic / Danger: No.
Origin: Mexico.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 9b-10 in arid regions. Damaged at
28°F.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Sun: Full sun to part shade.
Water after becoming established: Once or twice a month.
Soil: Well drained, dry to moist, pH 6.1-9.0 (slightly acidic to highly alkaline). *Do not use a nitrogen fertilizer.
Mulch: Plant is self-mulching in spring. Allow some leaf litter to stay under tree, but avoid heavy build-up.
Prune: Remove suckers from base as needed. To shape into a tree, in winter select three main stems and remove rest, then gradually remove lowest branches over several years in winter. This tree will not conform to a specific shape but can be guided.
Litter: High litter mid-spring, moderate rest of year.
Propagation: Seed requiring scarification.
Uses: Ornamental, shade, xeric garden.

Comments
Former scientific names: Lysiloma thornberi and Lysiloma microphylla var. thornberi. Other common names include Feather Bush, Feather Tree, and Fern of the Desert. This plant will naturally grow into a monster shrub if left on its own.



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Lysiloma watsonii: Desert Fern - flowers

Lysiloma watsonii: Desert Fern - seed pod

Lysiloma watsonii: Desert Fern - bark

Lysiloma watsonii: Desert Fern