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Foothills Palo Verde

Parkinsonia microphylla (Cercidium microphylla)

Mature Height*: 

10-20 ft

Mature Width*: 

10-20 ft

USDA Hardiness Zone Range:

9 to 10

Hardy to: 


Water Requirements: 

Drought Tolerant

Shade Requirements:

full sun or reflected sun

Native to:

Sonoran Desert, eastern California, Arizona to Baja California

Origin and Adaptability:

Hailing from the rugged foothills of the American Southwest, particularly thriving in arid regions, Parkinsonia microphylla, commonly referred to as Foothills Verde, or sometimes Littleleaf Palo Verde or Yellow Palo Verde, epitomizes adaptability to challenging environmental conditions. Its native origins in harsh climates render it an excellent choice for landscapes with similar demands, flourishing in well-drained soils and providing landscape architects with a versatile and resilient design element. Foothills Verde is a species native to the region, originally from the pea family, boasting unique characteristics that make it an ideal choice for sustainable landscape design.

Architectural Form and Foliage:

Foothills Verde presents a distinctive silhouette with its delicate, airy foliage and slender branches, creating an architectural shape in outdoor spaces. Its thornless nature adds to its appeal, offering a safe and visually captivating addition to landscape designs. Whether used as a standalone feature, integrated with other desert flora or as part of water-wise landscaping, its foliage brings a sense of elegance and tranquility to outdoor environments, enriching the visual aesthetic with its graceful growth patterns.

Floral Display and Growth Speed:

The allure of Foothills Verde lies in its greenish bark and vibrant yellow flowers, which burst into bloom during the spring months, adorning the tree with a golden canopy and attracting a plethora of pollinators. With a moderate growth rate, this species ensures steady progress, allowing designers to craft landscapes that evolve gradually, striking a balance between prompt establishment and long-term sustainability.

Light and Water Requirements:

Thriving under full sunlight, Foothills Verde reaches its full potential when exposed to at least six hours of sunlight daily. While it can tolerate some shade, ample sunlight enhances its growth and overall vigor. As a drought-tolerant plant, minimal watering during establishment fosters robust growth and resilience, making it an excellent choice for water-conscious landscape designs. Foothills Verde tends to thrive in rocky foothill locations, though it can adapt to various soil conditions.

Wildlife Support and Biodiversity:

Endemic to the arid regions of the American Southwest, Foothills Verde serves as a vital habitat and food source for local wildlife. Its vibrant flowers attract pollinators such as hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies, enriching the biodiversity of the landscape and providing landscape architects with an opportunity to create outdoor spaces that support native wildlife populations. Moreover, its dense foliage offers shelter for small birds and insects, further enhancing its ecological value.

Cultural Significance and Local Context:

In the cultural heritage of the Southwest, Foothills Verde holds significant importance, with indigenous communities utilizing its wood for various purposes, including construction and traditional medicine. Its presence in the local landscape is intertwined with folklore and spirituality, making it an integral part of the region's cultural heritage. Landscape architects can draw inspiration from these cultural connections to design spaces that resonate with the historical and spiritual essence of the desert Southwest.

Challenges and Considerations:

While generally low-maintenance, designers should consider the mature size and growth habits of Foothills Verde during the planning phase. Pruning may be necessary to maintain its desired form and promote optimal flowering. Additionally, vigilance against potential pest and disease issues ensures the long-term health and vitality of this iconic desert tree. Foothills Verde provides some shade, though it may not be substantial enough to mitigate excessive summer heat, making it suitable for light shade applications.

Integration into Landscape Designs:

With its radiant floral display, cultural significance, and adaptability to arid climates, Foothills Verde seamlessly integrates into various landscape designs. Designers can utilize it to create focal points in xeriscape gardens, provide shade and shelter in native plantings, or as a striking accent in contemporary desert landscapes, enhancing the visual appeal and ecological value of outdoor spaces.

Designing with Foothills Verde:

For landscape architects and designers, Parkinsonia microphylla, known as Foothills Verde, offers an opportunity to infuse outdoor environments with the vibrant essence of the desert Southwest. Whether prominently featured or subtly incorporated into the landscape, this species contributes to the creation of visually captivating and ecologically sustainable designs, embodying the spirit of the desert landscape in all its natural splendor.

*Height and width estimated for growth in the Tucson, AZ area. True sizes may vary.

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