in Tucson, Phoenix,
Arizona and California

Gardening in Tucson, Phoenix, Arizona and California

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Lysiloma watsonii: Desert Fern / Feather Tree

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Form: A multi-trunked shrub, or with pruning, a 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, with a fern-like appearance, turn yellow, then drop mid-spring and are quickly replaced. This tree provides light filtered shade.
Stems: No thorns.
Roots: Nitrogen-fixing*. It produces both root and stem suckers at the base of its trunk.
Wildlife: Attracts butterflies, bees. A 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
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: This plant is self-mulching in the spring. Allow some leaf litter to stay under the tree, but avoid a heavy build-up.
Prune: Remove suckers from the base of the trunk as needed. To shape into a tree, select three main stems in winter and remove the rest, then gradually remove the lowest branches over several years in winter. This tree will not conform to a specific shape but can be guided.
Litter: High litter caused by leaf drop in mid-spring, then moderate the rest of the year.
Propagation: Seed, which must be scarified.
Uses: Ornamental, shade, xeric garden.

Former scientific names: Lysiloma thornberi and Lysiloma microphylla var. thornberi. Another common name is Feather Bush. 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