Parkinsonia aculeata

Secondary Names:
retama, paloverde

Leaf Type: Deciduous
Texas Native:
Tree Description:

An airy, thorny, small tree to 30 feet with a see-through crown of narrow, light green leaves and green branches and twigs.

Range/Site Description:

Throughout South and southwest Texas, especially along the Rio Grande, but occurs as far north as Dallas with winter protection. Prefers moist sites, but also drought-tolerant.


Alternate and compound, with just two pinnae arising from either a very short petiole or bundled at the twig. Each leaf pair is guarded at the twig by spiny stipules. Each pinna is made up of a long, strap-like, winged rachis, 8" to 16" long, with many tiny leaflets that measure 0.25" long, but often drop away from the rachis during the growing season.


Showy racemes of yellow-orange, five-petaled flowers about 0.5" long, appear from the leaf axils in warm spring weather, or after rains throughout the growing season.


A reddish-brown, linear pod, 2" to 4" long, constricted between the seeds and pointed at both ends.


Twigs and branches up to 2" in diameter are distinctly green, turning brown with thin scales as they get larger, with stout thorns up to 1" long. Old trunks have dark, rough bark.


Flowers are used by bees for honey production. Wood is sometimes used for fuel and the leaves and seed pods are browsed by livestock.

Similar Species:

Honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa var. glandulosa) and screwbean mesquite (P. pubescens) both have fewer and longer leaflets.

Interesting Facts:

Seeds were used by Native Americans to make a coarse flour for making bread.

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