Bless You, Palo Verde

The Palo Verde tree is one of the most beautiful arid trees found in Arizona. In 1954, it became the state tree.

It is widely used in the urban landscape as a great arid tree. Once established, it is one of the few arid trees that truly thrive on no supplemental irrigation.

As I write this, the Palo Verde’s brilliant yellow blooms are sprouting everywhere—it is one of the most popular native trees used in landscape design here in Phoenix.

And that is why I’m sneezing. Everywhere I turn, it seems other people are sneezing and sniffling, too.

Between sneezes, I’d like to share a few interesting facts about the Palo Verde.

Palo Verde, in Spanish, translates to “green pole” or “green stick”. The Palo Verde is easily identified by its green bark, which aids in the process of photosynthesis.

There are two varieties of Palo Verde native to Arizona: the Foothills Palo Verde and the Blue Palo Verde.

In their natural environment, the Foothills Palo Verde is found along rocky slopes and the Blue Palo Verde is usually found along arroyos and washes.

Both species provide great cover and shade for more heat-sensitive plants that grow under the cover of their canopy, such as a young saguaro.

The Foothills Palo Verde ( Cercidium microphyllum ) is most easily identified by its yellow-green trunk, tiny leaves, and spine at the end of each branch. The seeds are large and the pod constricts around the seeds.

The Blue Palo Verde ( Cercidium floridum ) has a blue-green trunk, larger leaves, and smaller spines along the branch at each leaf node. The Blue Palo Verde does not have a spine at the end of the branch like the Foothills Palo Verde. The seedpods on the Blue Palo Verde are larger than the Foothills Palo Verde and they don’t constrict around seeds.

Both species of Palo Verde produce edible flowers and seeds. They generally flower mid-April through the end of May and produce green seedpods a few weeks after.

The seedpods generally dry out by late June or July, but can be harvested either green or dry.

If pods are harvested while green, it is best to harvest when the seed is developed, but is small, green, and tender. When harvested, they can be eaten like peas or edamame.

Be sure to taste the seeds before harvesting. They should have a sweet taste to them. If they are chalky, it is best to let them fully ripen and harvest when dry, before the summer monsoons start.

Green seeds are best prepared by blanching in boiling water for about 90 seconds, then immediately cooling in ice water. They can be blanched either in the pod or shelled, and excess beans or pods should be immediately drained and stored in airtight containers or freezer bags.

Dry seeds are best eaten after shelling and simply roasting in an oven. A dash of salt or other seasoning prior to roasting can really add to the flavor of the seeds.

Even though the Palo Verde is the root of many allergy sufferers’ problems this time of year, the beautiful blooms and edible seeds make up for it.

Do you have a native plant or tree in your region that you know is edible? If so, I’d love to hear about them. Feel free to leave a comment below, send me a tweet, or even an email. I look forward to hearing from you.

Have a great weekend!

Boyd Coleman is a landscape architect in Phoenix, Arizona. He can be reached on twitter at @CDGLA or email: