Our Plants


July 2012 Plant Highlight: Parkinsonia aculeata

by Brian Kemble

P. aculeata

There are several related trees referred to as Palo Verde, which means “green stick” in Spanish, a reference to the green trunks and branches which are characteristic of them.  One of these, Parkinsonia aculeata, is commonly called Mexican Palo Verde.  Though it doesoccur in Mexico, it is also native to the southwestern U.S. and southward as far as South America.  Its natural range does not extend into California, but it is widely grown in the southern part of the state and has naturalized in some locations there.

P. aculeata flower

Parkinsonia aculeata is not a large tree; it may grow to be as much as 30 feet tall (9 m), but is usually less than this.  Its branches have small thorns, and its fine-textured foliage yields dappled light rather than dense shade.  The leaves are divided at the base into long narrow leaflets about 6 to 9 inches long (15 to 23 cm).  Each of these leaflets has a flattened narrow midrib with tiny secondary leaflets arrayed on either side.

P. aculeata

This tree begins flowering in June at the Ruth Bancroft Garden and continues until cold weather arrives in the fall.  The flowers are about ¾ of an inch wide (2 cm) and a vivid yellow except for the uppermost  petal, called the banner, which is speckled with red or orange and becomes more deeply colored as the flower ages.

Like other members of the pea family (Fabaceae), Parkinsonia aculeata has bean-like pods which encase the seeds.  The pods are 2 to 4 inches long (5 to 10 cm), with constrictions between the seeds and pointed at the end.


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Mission Statement
The mission of the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Inc. is to preserve this exceptional example of garden design and to continue to develop its collection of water-conserving plants for the education and enjoyment of the public.
Grant Funders

The Ruth Bancroft Garden would like to recognize the following grant funders:

The Quest Foundation for funding our Education Coordinator’s position

The Mervyn L. Brenner Foundationand The Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust for funding our directional signs.

The California Horticultural Society for funding towards our restoration projects.

The Ruth Bancroft Garden GardenConservancy