The Palo Verde, ‘Desert Museum’, have been getting a lot of attention lately here in Austin, Texas, and for good reason! They are loaded with bright yellow blooms which are simply stunning and are quite visible from far away. The Palo Verde, in Spanish means green stick. The name green stick I would imagine is due to the fact that the bark is a bright green in color which in itself is quite unique. The ‘Desert Museum’ is the most popular variety. The Palo Verde are deciduous, drought tolerant, wonderful, fast growing trees that bloom an abundance of yellow flowers throughout the year. They are popular as they have a beautiful wispy and architectural look to them and are nice accent trees even when they are not blooming. They can reach heights of 20 – 25 feet and can be pruned to be more upright if preferred.
The Palo Verde are blooming right now all over Austin and are real show stoppers. The Retama is a tree which looks similar and if often mistaken for the ‘Desert Museum’. The Retama is commonly confused with the Palo Verde as it also blooms yellow flowers and has green bark, the main difference between the two is the Retama has thorns all over it and the Retama is a Texas native. The leaves of the Palo Verdes are more compact and resemble the leaves of a Mimosa tree while the Retama leaves, though they resemble the Mimosa leaves as well, are a bit longer. To the casual observer they are quite similar aside from the thorns and the Retama tends to have a more natural free look while the Palo Verde has a more classic shape and form.
The Palo Verde is an excellent choice for Austin, Texas. They prefer full sun and well drained soil. When planning your landscape make sure to select plants with similar water requirements. Beautiful combinations include the Salvia greggii in red or purple, ‘Mystic Spires’ Salvia, a personal favorite with it’s bright blue blooms look beautiful planted alongside the ‘Desert Museum’ and make sure to put in a few evergreens like the Dwarf Yaupon Holly for example. Another option is to pair with Agaves and desert loving plants such as the Parryi truncata, Artichoke Agave, Queen Victoria Agave, Candellia and various Dasylirion and Sotols. These are all low water-once established, easy to care for, drought tolerant and can take the full Texas sun. However you choose to plant your tree whether it be standing alone or alongside perennials and shrubs, the Palo Verde is an excellent choice for height, blooms and architectural interest.