The trees offered through SRP’s SHADE program are all desert adapted, meaning they require very little water once established. Several of the species available are excellent wildlife magnets that will draw wildlife to your yard as well as producing shade for your home. The velvet mesquite tree (Prosopis juliflora) will attract nesting families of birds, especially insect eating species that feast on bugs that proliferate in the flowers, bark and foliage of the tree. Honey bees collect mesquite flower nectar for delicious honey. The seeds and sweet fleshy pods produced by this tree are eaten by many wild animals and was an important food source for native peoples. This practice is enjoying a resurgence with classes offered through both the Valley Permaculture Alliance and Desert Botanical Gardens in the processing and use of the protein rich mesquite flour.
The blue palo verde tree (Cercidium floridum) is another native that provides food and shelter to birds, mammals and insects. Verdins, cactus wrens, hummingbirds, finches, mockingbirds, thrashers and phainopeplas nest in and eat insects from Arizona’s state tree. The seeds are an important food source for quail, doves, javelina, ground squirrels and many other desert rodents. We can eat them too! Palo verde trees also provide a cheery bloom of bright yellow flowers in early spring. Thornless hybrids of both of these trees are also offered in the program.
Another interesting tree available is the desert willow (Chilopsis linearsis). This thornless, deciduous tree busts out a bounty of pink to lavender orchid-like flowers just when we are numb from summertime browns. The flowers attract hummingbirds and verdins as well as butterflies. The willow acacia (Acacia salicina) is the sixth tree offered and is useful in areas that receive a lot of water, such as lawns.
You must be a utility customer, have the legal right to plant trees on your property, be able to plant the trees within 15 feet of the south, east, or west side of your home and attend an hour long workshop to learn to select, plant and care for your new trees. Up to three trees can be awarded depending on the space available. Check out the websites for APS and SRP for more information on a class near you.
Upcoming SHADE workshops Sat. August 25 at Fountain Hills Learning Center and October 6 at South Mountain Community College