Form: A single to multi-stemmed shrub, or with pruning, a tree.
Lifespan: 50-150 years.
Leaf retention: Evergreen except will it will drop its leaves under three conditions:
before blooming (which does not happen every year), extreme drought, and cold temperatures below its
Growth rate: Slow. Supplemental water speeds growth.
Mature Size: 15-30' high and as wide.
Flowers: Pea-flower shaped, light purple wing petals with other petals being white or
pink, clustered on short shoots that grow from the middle of stems.
Bloom: Spring, after its leaves have dropped. This plant usually blooms less than once
every five years.
Fruit: A short brown seed pod. The pea-sized black seeds are edible only after
Leaves: Tiny, oval, thick, green to bluish-green, paired leaflets. Each compound leaf
has a pair of thorns at its base. This plant provides medium shade.
Stems: Thorny. The wood is dense, heavy, sinks in water, and contains chemicals toxic
to wood-rotting microbes.
Wildlife: The flowers attract bees, the seed pods attract birds, and the leaves are
browsed by large mammals. This plant provides shade to smaller plants and many animals in
Toxic / Danger: Thorns. The wood contains toxins; sawdust is a possible breathing
Origin: California, Arizona, and Mexico.
Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 9-11. Young trees are hardy to 25°F, older ones to 20°F.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Sun: Full sun.
Water after becoming established: Once every month or two during drought.
Soil: Well drained, dry, low in organic content, pH 6.6-8.5 (neutral to alkaline).
*Do not use a nitrogen fertilizer.
Prune: Clip lightly to shape and thin. Trim to maintain a balanced shape, when young.
In the wild, these trees sometimes grow awkwardly unbalanced.
Litter: Leaf drop, which is prevented by monthly watering during drought.
Uses: Ornamental, xeric garden.
This plant is a member of the Legume family (Fabaceae). It is a protected species and long
lived — some specimens are centuries old. A few commercial varieties have been selected
for improved cold hardiness.
The overall appearance of this tree in full bloom, with pale pinkish blossoms, is very
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Latest update: July, 2021