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COMMON NATIVE TREES OF TUCSON

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Tree Spotlights (6)

 

velvet mesquiteIf you haven't been living here a long time, you're probably thinking, "What trees, I don't see any trees?" But after you've avoided meltdown by halting in their shade enough times, you give credit where credit is due. In fact, these trees deserve a lot of credit. In addition to providing precious shade in the summer, these trees provide protection against winter frosts (critical in the life of many young plants including the saguaro), enrich the soil with nitrogen (through a special relationship they have with nitrogen-fixing microorganisms), and provide food, shelter, and materials for humans and nonhumans alike.

All six trees spotlit here are in the Fabaceae (legume) Family, and all bear the characteristic bean pods (legumes). The pods of some species (e.g., velvet mesquite) are edible and have served as a critical food source for humans in the past. People also value the wood of these trees for carving (e.g., ironwood), building, and burning (directly or first processed into charcoal as with mesquite). In fact, pressure on the trees for carving and charcoal have resulted in severe depletion over wide areas. These leguminous trees, along with columnar cactuses (e.g., saguaro), characterize the sonoran desert.