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Parkinsonia (florida)

Jennifer Kleffner
Former Nursery Director
Lower Colorado River Prop. Specialist
PO Box 666
Bayfield, Colorado 81122

Family Scientific Name: Fabaceae
Family Common Name: Pea
Scientific Name: Parkinsonia florida (Benth.) S. Wats.
Common Synonym: Cercidium floridum Benth ex Gray
Common Name: Blue Paloverde
General Distribution: Arid areas of southern California, Arizona, Nevada
Propagation Goal: plants
Propagation Method: seed
ProductType: Container (plug)
Stock Type: 1 gallon, 5 gallon, 15 gallon container
Time To Grow: 12 Months
Target Specifications: For one gallon plants, height of 1 - 1 1/2 ft. Longer grow out time and larger container if larger trees desired.
Propagule Collection: Paloverde's easily cross pollinate. As there are three species of paloverde in southwestern Arizona, the native Parkinsonia florida (Blue Paloverde), the native Parkinsonia microphylla (Little Leaf or Foothills Paloverde) and the naturalized Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican Paloverde), it is critical to collect seed from sources where the other trees are not found. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish blue paloverde from foothills paloverde when the trees are not in bloom if you are unfamiliar with the trees. Blue paloverde seems to retain some seed pods on the tree into late summer, whereas the foothills paloverde will drop all seeds as soon as they ripen. The seed pods and flowers are also distinctly different. Collect seed from mid June to mid July, as soon as seed pod and seed are dry but before it falls to the ground, to avoid insect infestation. If collected early, shelled and placed in airtight storage, insecticide is not necessary.
Propagule Processing: We store seed in surplus military ammunition cans, which are air and water tight when sealed. Seed is easily shelled by hand. As the seeds are collected during the heat of the summer (110 + degrees), retained moisture in the seeds is not an issue. By the time they are shelled, they are thoroughly dry. Cans are kept at outside ambient temperature in a storage shed.
Pre-Planting Treatments: Paloverde's have a very hard outer seed coat that requires scarification in order to germinate. Nick with hand pruners or use sand paper to break through the outer seed coat.
Growing Area Preparation/
Annual Practices for Perennial Crops:
All plants in our nursery are grown outside under 68% shade cloth or in full sun. (Plants grown under shade will be more leggy, but soil temperatures will be lower during the summer heat. Its a trade off.) Therefore, outside temperature dictates when to plant. Pots are the typical 7 in diameter x 7 in high black plastic pots such as the ones made by Nursery Supply. However, we reuse and buy back pots, so they are often a mix of slightly different sizes, styles and brands. No additional cleaning is done. Soil mixture is approximately 50% local soil (sand) and 50% inexpensive wood mulch (mostly to lighten up the pots for shipping).
Establishment Phase: After seed scarification, soak seeds for 24 hours to confirm you have penetrated the seed coat. Seeds should swell to over twice their normal size. Discard any seeds that float. This usually indicates an insect infestation. Germination is non-existent even when seeds are scarified unless the soil has thoroughly warmed (temperatures reach the 90's, normally in April). Seeds should be planted at a depth of about twice the seed diameter, one to two seeds per pot. Most germination should occur within one week, and is usually close to 90%. Cover pots with hardware cloth to prevent rodents from eating seedlings as they first emerge. Once they are larger they seem to become unpalatable. These are very drought tolerant plants, so irrigation should keep pots moist, but never soggy.
Length of Establishment Phase: one month
Active Growth Phase: Thin to one plant per pot when trees are finger length high. Plants are actively growing from May through September, the hottest months. If transplanting to a larger pot, do it during this time. Prune out dead or small crossing branches in the winter, but do not prune too heavily (otherwise growth patterns are interrupted).
Length of Active Growth Phase: Five months
Hardening Phase: After one year of growth, ie. April to April, either outplant or pot up trees. Plants have a deep taproot, and will be stunted if left in too small of a pot. Stunting can also occur if the soil temperature is excessive (not hard to do with black pots in full sun with 110+ ambient temperatures). Any transplanting needs to occur during the active growth period for success.
Length of Hardening Phase: None
Harvesting, Storage and Shipping: Plants are shipped via truck during the summer months. This is also a common landscape plant in SW Arizona, so some plants are potted up to larger sizes for retail sale. We recommend our retail customers plant these trees in May for best results.
Length of Storage: None
Other Comments: Highly utilized by nesting birds. Beautiful landscape tree when pruned.
References: Thanks to the Desert Legume Program (DELEP) sponsored by Boyce Thompson Southwestern Arboretum and the University of Arizona Tucson for helpful information on Paloverde's.


Kleffner, Jennifer. 2001. Propagation protocol for production of Container (plug) Parkinsonia florida (Benth.) S. Wats. plants 1 gallon, 5 gallon, 15 gallon container; Lower Colorado River Prop. Specialist Bayfield, Colorado. In: Native Plant Network. URL: http://NativePlantNetwork.org (accessed 2021/05/11). US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, National Center for Reforestation, Nurseries, and Genetic Resources.

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