The spring pageantry continues in the desert. Glorious clouds of yellow sit upon the paloverde trees, those bland legumes, often short on leaves and charisma. The humble trees have moved to center stage and flame like beacons across the desert.
Bees drawn to the nectar and pollen create an undulating hum that creates a force field around the trees. All along my walks I hear bees buzzing to, from and about the big pollen party.
Growing up in the Northwest, in the shadow of towering Douglas fir and cedar trees, I didn’t recognize at first the status of the sprawling trees of the desert. But the ubiquitous paloverde and ironwood trees anchor life here.
These leguminous species attract beneficial bacteria to the soil around their roots, and this nitrogen rich zone is a magnet for other plant species such as saguaros that grow up in the shelter of their branches. Their yellow flowers feed bees and chuckwalla lizards, while mammals such as rock squirrels and cottontail rabbits browse the leaves and stems.
The flowers are replaced by a robust crop of seed pods. Already tender green crescents dangle like earrings from the trees. Protein rich seeds will develop inside the pods that will fuel life in birds, squirrels and other small mammals.
The natives are called foothill paloverdes. They are thorny. When we looked for a tree for our front yard, we settled on a desert museum paloverde. It has the same glossy green bark and a crown that opens to the sky like arms reaching towards heaven. Since we too are humble desert inhabitants and given to pruning our own trees, we decided this thornless hybrid allowed us the best of both worlds. Verdins still hunt insects along the desert museum’s branches and whiptail lizards scoop up bugs beneath its canopy.