Physical Setting
Climate
Adaptations
Tucson Plants
Tucson Animals
External Resources
Physical Setting
Climate
Adaptations
Tucson Plants
Tucson Animals
External Resources
PlantsNative TreesNative ShrubsNative CactusesWildflowersOther Plants
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Desert Ironwood (Olneya tesota)
desert ironwoodDESCRIPTION: Tree up to 35' high. Bark is gray to dark gray and becomes fissured with age (wood inside is beautiful chocolate brown). Spines brown-tipped and slightly curved. Leaves are simple pinnately compound and are a bluish-green that makes them appear darker than most other trees. Flowers are pea-shaped, with five unequal petals, and are usually pale lavender but range from whitish to deep violet-purple. Fruit are a brown, hairy pod. Fabaceae (Legume) Family.
NATURAL HISTORY: Frost-sensitive, it occurs almost entirely in the Sonoran desert. Its wood is among the densest in the world; in fact, it sinks in water. In the 1960s the Seri's in Sonora began carving the beautiful wood for the tourist trade; since then many others have been mass-producing the wood carvings and also harvesting the trees to make charcoal. This has led to depleted populations and the protection of the Desert Ironwood in Arizona and Sonora.

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