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Submitted by Ann McDermott
blue paloverde
Blue Paloverde
yellow paloverde
Yellow Paloverde
mexican paloverde
Mexican Paloverde

With the season of flowering just past, the easiest means of identifying paloverde varieties is behind us, but here's some information you may not know which you can put to use now and the next time these wonderful trees are in bloom.

Range: I have two of the three non-hybridized types of paloverde in my yard, Blue and Yellow. These two are considered native to our region. A third, the Mexican, is thought to have come from more tropical regions to the south. A neighbor down the street has one in his yard. This variety is more associated with human habitation.

Description: The Blue Paloverde is considered to be a dry riparian tree. It grows mostly along washes in the wild, for it needs more water than rain alone provides. It can grow to 40 feet in height and grows rather quickly, for it is not long lived, as trees go. It is at its prime at 30 years and probably doesn't live longer than 100 years altogether. Its flowers are five petaled, with one being larger (the banner petal) than the other four. The whole flower is yellow, except that the banner petal is sprinkled with tiny orange spots. Flowers create pods holding one to three hard, dark, flat seeds which do not germinate easily. They need scarring to be permeable to water. The bark of its drooping branches and twigs is a bluish-green, containing the chlorophyll that allows this species to continue photosynthesis after dropping its leaves in winter or drought. Its leaves are bipinnately compound and short, with only two to four leaflets, but these are large enough to cast some shade.

The Yellow Paloverde is also called the Foothill Paloverde. As this name indicates, it is more drought resistant than the Blue and survives on the hillsides, not just in water drainages. It is the shortest in height and longest lived of the paloverde varieties. Its height is usually around 15 feet, rarely up to 30. It is slow growing, reaching maturity at about 100 years and lives perhaps as long as 400 years altogether. Its branches are less droopy than the Blue's and its green bark is a lighter, yellowier green. The flowers easily set it apart from the Blue. Five petaled, again, the banner petal is white, while the others are yellow. It blooms after the Blue and its overall visual effect is a lighter yellow. Its leaves are different too. Bipinnately compound, the leaves are a little longer with three to five pairs of leaflets, but the leaflets are smaller and frequently absent, even when rains have been good, so this tree doesn't provide much shade except via the massing of its branches. Seed pods hold slightly more seeds than is typical to the Blue, and the seeds are softer shelled, making the Yellow paloverde more prolific.

The Mexican Paloverde has erect branches and grows quickly, as much as 40 feet. It's the shortest lived of the bunch, only 30 years. Its leaves are long, up to a foot, and give the tree a weeping or feathered effect, for the leaflets are very tiny, and useless for shade. The leaves are extremely messy when shed. The green of the bark is like Yellow's. The flowers are more spectacular than the Blue or the Yellow; however, for the banner petal is a bright orange/red, while the others are yellow. Seed pods carry three to five seeds, about the same as the Yellow.

Take a closer look the next time you pass a paloverde. Which variety is it?

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