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Parkinsonia microphylla
Cercidium microphylum

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Shield-back Katydid

Capnobotes fuliginosus

Watercolor of Parkinsonia microphylla © by Michael Plagens

Watercolor from specimens found at Bumble Bee, Arizona, 12 July 1992.

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Among the caterpillars found munching the leaves may be Hubbard's Silk Moth -- Sphingicampa hubbardi. This is easily one of the most spectacular and, quite honestly, beautiful ‘worm’ to be found in the desert.

ripening seeds of Foothill Palo Verde, Parkinsonia microphylla, © by Michael Plagens

Nearly mature seed pods observed at Cave Creek Park n. of Phoenix, Arizona, USA. 11 June 2011

TREE: The twigs and branches and most of the main trunk are smooth and slightly yellow-green.

 © by Mike Plagens LEAVES: Two or four sets of ~10, small leaflets form a compound leaf. Drought and cold deciduous. When the season is changing from moist to dry the leaves are often eaten in mass my web-spinning caterpillars of a gelechiid moth. The adult moth is shown at right - click image for more information.

FLOWERS: Abundant blossoms in April and May are pale yellow with five petals. The banner petal is usu. white. Essentially no flowers open during the summer. In most areas Foothill Palo Verde will be blooming a week or two later than Blue Palo Verde.

flowers appear in late April and Early May; photo © M. Plagens

FRUIT: The pods contain smooth, hard, bean-seeds that are slightly flattened and number 2 to 7 per pod.

RANGE: Abundant. Of all the trees, the Foothill Palo Verde probably overlaps the range of the Saguaro Cactus most completely. Foothills tend to grow on rocky slopes often away from washes or otherwise much drier sites than Blue Palo Verde.

ARMED: The rather weak spines of Foothill Palo Verde are straight and located at the tips of short branchlets.

Before they harden, the young seed pods of both palo verdes can be boiled and eaten like tender peas in the pod. The seeds of both palo verdes are heavily attacked by seed feeding bruchid beetles (bean weevils). Perfectly round emergence holes are left after the seed has been hollowed out by a developing larva. Two common genera are Mimosestes and Stator.

Fabaceae -- Bean Family

More Information:

Sonoran Desert Field Guide
Sonoran Desert Places
Sonoran Desert Naturalist Home Page


Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 6 Nov. 2007, updated 15 October 2012.