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Trees For Arizona
Low Elevations

The following species are suggested for areas below about 4000’ in elevation. They are native to the southwest US and Mexico, and the list emphasizes Arizona native plants. Please pay attention to the hardiness of each species. This list isn’t to suggest that these species cannot be grown in the higher elevations—there are many marginal species that can grow in the middle elevations, and a few that are native to high elevations. A few of these species are marginal even in the low desert and require a warm microclimate. Plants selected for this list can generally tolerate the hot summers.

A few of these species are found as large shrubs, and may take some time to form a tree. The cultivation information is delivered with the lower elevations in mind.

Our list is inclusive (and we are always open to your suggestions for additions). Not all these plants are readily available in the trade. Some are hard to grow in containers, or perhaps the plants are difficult to germinate. We do our best to try to make as many of these available as we can.

We are working to profile all these trees in detail, but have included the important details here useful for selection. As mentioned, we do not carry all these species all of the time. But you can check our current plant list to see what we have. You may also check out other local plant nurseries.


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Atamisquea emarginata
Vomitbush

Small evergreen tree to about 25’
Full to part sun, low to moderate water, 28°F
This cool tree is related to the caper. It barely makes it into Arizona and can be seen at Organ Pipe National Monument.


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bauhinia lunarioides
Anancho Orchid Tree

Small, semi-deciduous, flowering tree, 12’h, 10’w
Full to part sun, moderate water, 10°F
Beautiful white flowers, attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.


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Brahea armata
Mexican blue palm

Palm Tree, 20-25’h, 10-15’w
Full to Part Sun, Mod to Low Water, 18°F
Great habitat plant for birds, bats, and insects. Fruits for birds.


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Caesalpinia cacalaco
CASCALOTE

Small, Evergreen, flowering tree, 15-20’h&w
Full to Part sun, low to moderate water, 20°F
Flowers attract butterflies


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Canotia holacantha
Crucifixion thorn

Small, almost leafless tree, 10-15’h
Full to Part sun, low to moderate water, 10°F
One of the three similar-looking species in our region called “Crucifixion Thorn”, this species is bumblebee pollinated.


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castela emoryi
Crucifixion thorn

Small, almost leafless tree, 10-15’h
Full to Part sun, low to moderate water, 25°F
One of the three similar-looking species in our region called “Crucifixion Thorn”. Nectar rich flowers.


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celtis ehrenbergiana
Desert Hackberry

Semi-evergreen shrub or small tree, to almost 20 feet
Full to part sun, low water, 25°F
Important habitat tree, fruit for birds and other animals, nectar rich flower for many insects, larval host plant for several species of butterflies including the American snout, empress leila, and many more.


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Celtis reticulata
Canyon Hackberry

Large, deciduous tree 40-50’ tall
Full to part sun, regular to moderate water, -20°F
Unusual warty trunk with age, incredible habitat tree for birds, fruit for birds and other animals, nectar rich flower for many insects, larval host plant for several species of butterflies including the American snout, empress leila, and many more.


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Cercis canadensis
var. mexicana
Mexican Redbud

Small, deciduous tree 15-25’
Full to part sun, moderate water, 0°F
Bumblebee pollinated (nectar-rich flowers), larval host for Henry’s elfin butterfly (Callophrys henrici), birds enjoy the seeds.


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Cercis canadensis var. texensis
Texas redbud

Small, deciduous tree 15-25’
Full to part sun, moderate water, 0°F
Bumblebee pollinated (nectar-rich flowers), larval host for Henry’s elfin butterfly (Callophrys henrici), birds enjoy the seeds.


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Cercis occidentalis
western redbud

Small, deciduous tree 15-25’
Full to part sun, moderate water, -20°F
Bumblebee pollinated (nectar-rich flowers), birds enjoy the seeds.


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Cercocarpus spp.
Mountain Mahogany

This includes Cercocarpus montanus (and its subspecies) and C. ledifolius.
Evergreen, large shrubs or small trees 10-25’
Full to part sun, moderate water, -30°F
Often found as shrubs in nature because of deer browsing. Larval host plants for many butterfly species including the western sheepmoth (Hemileuca eglanterina) and the mountain mountain mahogany hairstreak (Satyrium tetra).


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Chilopsis linearis
Desert Willow

Deciduous, large shrub or small tree 20-25’
Full sun, moderate to low water, -10°F
Loved by nectar-loving insects and birds for the flowers, granivorous birds for the seeds, provides important nesting material for several bee species, larval host for several geometrid and sphinx moths. Several cultivars usually selected for flower color. Lovely smell that some people cannot detect.


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Chiltalpa tashkentensis
Chitalpa

Deciduous, large shrub or small tree 20-30’
Full sun, moderate to low water, 0°F
Loved by nectar-loving insects and birds for the flowers.


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Cordia boisseri
Texas olive tree

Semi-evergreen tree 20-35’h&w
Full to part sun, moderate water, 20°F
Loved by native bees, hummingbirds for nectar-rich flowers, mammals and birds use fruits.


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Cupressus Arizonica
arizona cypress

Coniferous, evergreen tree 30-40’
Full sun, moderate to low water, -10°F
Important nesting site for birds, attracts all sorts of insects which attract insectivorous birds.


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Dermatophyllum secundiflorum
texas mountain laurel

Small evergreen tree (or large shrub) to 15’
Full sun, moderate to low water, 10°F
Nectar rich flowers (they smell like grape bubblegum) that attract nectar-loving insects. Larval host for genista broom moth (Uresiphita reversalis).


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Diospyros texana
texas persimmons

small semi-evergreen to deciduous tree
15’h&w, can get taller
full to part sun, moderate water, 15°F
Nectar rich flowers for bees and butterflies, larval host for the gray hairstreak, fruit edible for humans, birds and mammals. Plants are dioecious (separate male and female plants).


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Ebenopsis ebano
texas ebony

Small, mostly evergreen tree (deciduous in cold part of its range), 15-40’
Full sun, moderate to low water, 10°F
Larval host for coyote cloudwing butterfly (Achalarus toxeus) and the sphinx moth Sphingicampa blanchardi. Dense foliage provides great nesting for birds.


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Ehretia anacua
sandpaper tree

Small evergreen tree 25-40’, may sucker or have multiple trunks
Full to part sun, moderate water, 10°F
Larval host for Anacua Tortoise Beetle (Coptocycla texana), nectar rich flowers for insects, edible fruits for birds, mammals, people.

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Eysenhardtia orthocarpa
Kidneywood

Small semi-evergreen to deciduous tree, 10-20’h,6-15’w
full to part sun, moderate water, 15°F
Nectar rich flowers for bees and butterflies, larval host for the ceraunus blue, marine blue, gray hairstreak & arizona hairstreak butterflies. Seeds used by birds.


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Forestiera neomexicana
Desert Olive

Small, deciduous tree (or large shrub) 15-20’
Full to part sun, moderate to low water, -20º F
Flowers attract nectar-loving insects, fruits attract birds (trees are dioecious so you need male and female), and the plant is larval host for incense cedar sphinx (Sphinx libocedrus) and other moths and butterflies.


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forestiera shrevei
Arizona Olive

Small, deciduous tree to 15’
Full sun, moderate water, 10º F
Flowers attract nectar-loving insects, fruits attract birds (trees are dioecious so you need male and female), and the plant is probably a larval host plant but has not been documented.


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Fraxinus greggii
Little-leaf ash

Small, semi-evergreen tree or large shrub (evergreen in warm locations), 10-20’
Full to part sun, moderate water, °F
Nectar rich flowers for butterflies and bees, seeds for granivorous birds, habitat for birds.

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Fraxinus gooddingii
Fresnillo

Small, semi-evergreen tree (or large shrub) 10-20’
Full to part sun, moderate water, 10°F
Larval host for the incense cedar sphinx (Sphinx libocedrus), nectar-rich flowers for butterflies and bees, seeds for granivorous birds.


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Fraxinus velutina
Velvet Ash

Medium, deciduous tree, 25-40’
Full to part sun, moderate water, -10°F
Nectar-rich flowers for butterflies and bees, seeds for granivorous birds, larval food plant for the two-tailed swallowtail butterfly (Papilio multicaudata).


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Haematoxylum brasiletto
Mexican logwood

Medium semi-evergreen tree, 10-20’h&w
full to part sun, moderate water, 25°F
Nectar rich yellow legume flowers for bees and butterflies. Unusual fluted trunk, rare in Tucson landscapes. Native in the Sierra Madre in Sonora.


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Harvardia mexicana
Mexican Ebony

Medium deciduous tree, 30’h, 20’w
Full to part sun, low to moderate water, 15°F
Nectar rich fuzzy flowers for bees and butterflies. Probably a larval food plant for blues like H. pallens, good nesting tree.


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Havardia pallens
Tenaza

Medium deciduous tree, 30’h, 20’w
Full to part sun, low to moderate water, 15°F
Nectar rich fuzzy flowers for bees and butterflies, larval food for Marine blue, Ceraunus blue butterflies, good nest tree.


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Juglans major
Arizona Walnut

Deciduous tree, 40-60’
Full to part sun, moderate water, -10°F
Attracts birds and mammals, edible nuts, good nesting tree.


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Juniperus deppeana
Alligator Juniper

Evergreen, large shrub or small tree, 30-45’h&w
Full to part sun, moderate water, 0°F
Attracts birds & mammals, great nesting tree. Larval food plant for the juniper hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus) and the Doll’s sphinx (Sphinx dollii).


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Koeberlinia spinosa
Crucifixion Thorn

Green spiny tree (or large shrub) usually 6-15’ but sometimes to 30’
Full sun, low water, 0°F
Protected habitat and fruits for birds and mammals. One of the three species in our region called “Crucifixion Thorn”.


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Leucaena retusa
Golden Leadball Tree

Small, deciduous tree, usually 12-15’, up to 20’
Full sun, moderate water, 0°F
Nectar rich flowers especially attractive to butterflies and bees.


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Lysiloma watsonii
Feather Tree

Small semi-evergreen tree, 15-20’h&w
Full to part sun, moderate water, 25°F
flowers attracts butterflies and bees, larval food plant for the large orange sulfur (Phoebis agarithe), great nesting plant (wide canopy).


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Mariosousa willardiana
Palo Blanco

Small semi-evergreen tree, 20’h, 15’w
Full to part sun, moderate water, 25°F
Flowers attracts butterflies and bees, great accent tree with shiny white trunk.

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Morus microphylla
Texas mulberry

Deciduous tree (or large shrub) 15-20’
Full to part sun, moderate water, -15°F
Nectar-rich flowers attract butterflies and bees, fruits attract birds and mammals (and humans).

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Olneya tesota
Ironwood

Mostly evergreen tree, 30’h&w
full sun, low water, 20°F
flowers provide nectar for butterflies and bees, important nesting plant, keystone species in the Sonoran desert.


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Parkinsonia florida
Blue Palo Verde

Medium, deciduous tree to 30’
Full sun, low water, 10°F
Flowers provide nectar for bees, butterflies, important nesting plant for birds, seeds attractive to granivorous birds, several moth and beetle species depend on this species as adults and larvae, the mistletoe important to phainopepla birds. Larval host for the great purple hairstreak (Atlides halesus).


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Parkinsonia microphylla
Foothills palo verde

Small tree, 10-20’h&w
drought and cold deciduous, phtosynthesizing trunk
Full sun, low water, 15°F
Flowers provide nectar for butterflies and bees, important nesting plant with a trunk stays green with age, larval food plant for many beetles, the hubbard’s silk moth, and oblique Looper moth. Host to the mistletoe that feeds phainopepla & Great purple hairstreak. This is a keystone species in the Sonoran desert.


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Parkinsonia praecox
palo brea

Medium tree, 25’h&w
Drought or cold deciduous, photosynthesizing trunk
Full sun, low water, 20°F
Flowers provide nectar for butterflies and bees, important nesting plant, attractive form with a trunk stays green with age.


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Parkinsonia x ‘desert museum’
Desert Museum palo verde

Medium tree to 30’
Drought and cold deciduous, photosynthesizing trunk.
Full sun, low water, 15°F
Flowers provide nectar for insects. A complicated three-way hybrid between P. microphylla, P. florida and P. aculeata.


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Platanus mexicana
Mexican sycamore

Large deciduous tree, 60’
Full to part sun, regular water, 0°F
Seeds and nesting habitat for many species of birds. Brilliant fall color (some years better than others depending on timing of cold and rain). Magnificent mottled trunks.


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Platanus wrightii
arizona sycamore

Large deciduous tree, 60’
Full to part sun, regular water, -10°F
Seeds and nesting habitat for many species of birds. Brilliant fall color (some years better than others depending on timing of cold and rain). Magnificent mottled trunks.


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Populus fremontii
cottonwood

Large, deciduous tree to 60’ or more
Full sun, regular water, -30°F
Larval host to the Weidemeyer's admiral (Limenitis weidemeyeri latifascia), the Lorquin’s admiral (Limenitis lorquini burrisonii), the western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus), mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) and many other species of insect. Habitat for nesting birds. Seeds feed granivorous birds and mammals. Gorgeous fall color and makes beautiful sound as wind passes through canopy.

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prosopis glandulosa
Honey Mesquite

Large, deciduous tree to 30’
Full sun, moderate to low water, 0°F
Larval host for the Reakirt's blue butterfly (Hemiargus isola), Heiligbrodt’s sphinx moth (Sphingicampa heiligbrodti), and the Long-tailed Skipper butterfly (Urbanus proteus). Important nectar plant for numerous insects, attracting insectivorous birds, pods & seeds edible to people, birds & mammals, nesting habitat for birds.


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Prosopis pubescens
Screwbean Mesquite

Large, deciduous tree to 30’
Full sun, moderate to low water, 0°F
Larval host for the Reakirt's blue butterfly (Hemiargus isola), Marine Blue (Leptotes marina) , and the Palmer's Metalmark (Apodemia palmeri). Important nectar plant for numerous insects, attracting insectivorous birds, pods & seeds edible to people, birds & mammals, nesting habitat for birds.


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Prosopis velutina
velvet Mesquite

Large, deciduous tree to 50’
Full sun, moderate to low water, 10°F
Larval host for the Reakirt's blue butterfly (Hemiargus isola), Marine Blue (Leptotes marina), the Palmer's Metalmark (Apodemia palmeri), ceraunus blue butterfly, (Hemiargus ceraunus), and the leda minisreak (Ministrymon leda). Important nectar plant for numerous insects, attracting insectivorous birds, pods & seeds edible to people, birds & mammals, nesting habitat for birds. Leaves also edible to many insects which attracts the bell’s vireo, Lucy’s warbler, and the verdin. Host to mistletoe which is important food for phainopepla and a larval food for the great purple hairstreak (Atlides halesus). Probably the best wildlife species you can plant.


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Psorothamnus spinosus
Desert Smoke Tree

Almost leafless, spiny tree, to about 20’
Low water, full sun, to about 25°F
Important nectar plant, larval host for the Burns' buckmoth (Hemileuca burnsi). Very unusual tree that makes a great accent. Beautiful floral display of purple flowers in spring.


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Robinia neomexicana
New Mexico Locust

Deciduous tree (sometimes large shrub) 10-20’
Full sun to shade, moderate water, -25°F
This is a great wildlife tree: flowers buzzing with all sorts of nectar loving insects and birds. Larval host plant for the Golden Banded-Skipper (Autochton cellus) and the Funereal Duskywing (Erynnis funeralis). Seeds are poisonous.


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quercus toumeyi
Toumey Oak

Evergreen to semi-evergreen (in cold spots) tree (or most often a shrub), to about 10’
Full sun, moderate water, 0°F
Hosts a multitude of moths and butterflies including the Arizona sister (Adelpha eulalia), the dull firetip (Apyrrothrix araxes), the Short-tailed Skipper (Zestusa dorus), the sleepy duskywing (Erynnis brizo), the Meridian Duskywing (Erynnis meridianus), the Juvenal’s duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis), the llavia Hairstreak (Satyrium ilavia), the Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus), the Colorado Hairstreak (Hypaurotis crysalus), the Golden Hairstreak (Habrodais grunus), and more.
Most of our local species are evergreen but a few are deciduous. Oaks are some of the best trees and shrubs you can plant to encourage and support wildlife.


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quercus turbinella
Scrub Oak

Evergreen (semi-evergreen in cold places) tree or large shrub, 10-15’
Full sun, low to moderate water, -10°F
Hosts a multitude of moths and butterflies including the Arizona sister (Adelpha eulalia), the dull firetip (Apyrrothrix araxes), the Short-tailed Skipper (Zestusa dorus), the sleepy duskywing (Erynnis brizo), the Meridian Duskywing (Erynnis meridianus), the Juvenal’s duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis), the llavia Hairstreak (Satyrium ilavia), the Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus), the Colorado Hairstreak (Hypaurotis crysalus), the Golden Hairstreak (Habrodais grunus), and more.
Most of our local species are evergreen but a few are deciduous. Oaks are some of the best trees and shrubs you can plant to encourage and support wildlife.


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Salix gooddingii
Goodding’s Black WIllow

Deciduous tree, 20-30’, can get up to 60’
Full to part sun, regular water, 0º F
Larval host to the mourning cloak butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa) and Lorquin's Admiral (Limenitis lorquini) and a vast array of other insects, attracting substrate-insectivorous birds. Nesting tree for riparian birds. Important to native bees and other nectar insects for nectar-rich flowers.

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Sambucus spp.
Elderberry

Several similar species occur in Arizona: Sambucus canadensis, S. cerula, S. nigra, and S. racemosa (some taxonomic treatments put all Sambucus species under two species in the United States).
Deciduous trees or large shrubs, usually 12-15’. Some species can get much taller, to 30’
Full sun to shade, regular to moderate water, most species can stand at least -20º F
The species on elderberries are confusing, but they are all similar in growth habits and needs. Plants attract all kinds of insects with their flowers, fruits, and as a larval host species, thus they also attract substrate-insectivorous birds. Birds also use the fruits for food, and the canopy for nesting.


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Sapindus saponaria
soapberry

Deciduous multi-trunked trees (sometimes forming thickets) usually about 10-20’, sometimes reaching 50’
Full sun, moderate water, species is variable in hardiness (depending on where seed is from). Ours dependably hard to at least 0º F
Larval food plant for the Soapberry Hairstreak (Phaeostrymon alcestis). Some birds eat the fruit though they contain poisonous saponins which have been employed as a soap by humans. Great habitat plant for birds, especially when they form thickets.


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Senegalia berlandieri
guajillo

Small, mostly deciduous tree to about 15’
Full sun, moderate to low water, 20º F
Larval host for the long-tailed skipper (Urbanus proteus), nectar-rich flowers.


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Senegalia greggii
CatClaw Acacia

Small, deciduous tree or large shrub to 15’ or more
Full to part sun, low to moderate water, 0º F
Larval host for butterflies like the Mexican yellow (Eurema mexicana), the mimosa yellow (Pyrisitia nise), Reakirt’s blue (Hemiargus isola), and the marine blue (Leptotes marina) as well as a host of many other insects and moths. Attracts substrate-insectivorous birds. Some species consume seeds as well. Flowers attract all sorts of nectar-eating insects. Nice habitat for birds (the dense, thorny branches protect animals hiding within).


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Sideroxylon lanuginosum
gum bully

Semi-evergreen trees (sometimes shrubs) up to 50’
Full sun to shade, moderate water, -15º F
Fruit eaten by birds and other mammals, nectar rich flowers for insects, safe nesting habitat for birds, larval host to many insects.


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Tabebuia chrysantha
amapa amarilla

Deciduous trees to 50’
Part sun, moderate water, 28º F
Blooms before the leaves re-emerge with brilliant yellow, nectar-rich flowers.


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Tabebuia impetiginosa
amapa morada

Deciduous trees to 50’
Part sun, moderate water, 28º F
Blooms before the leaves re-emerge with brilliant pink, nectar-rich flowers.


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Ugnadia speciosa
Mexican Buckeye

Deciduous tree or large shrub to 15’ or more
Full to part sun, moderate to regular water, 0º F
Larval host to the Henry’s elfin butterfly (Callophrys henrici). Has nectar-rich flowers for insects and birds. Seeds are consumed by mammals and birds.


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Vachellia constricta

Whitethorn Acacia

Semi-evergreen tree (often a large shrub) to 15’ or more
Full to part sun, low water, -10º F
Sweet-smelling flowers attract all sorts of nectar-feeding insects. Larval host for the Mexican yellow (Eurema mexicana), Mimosa yellow (Pyrisitia nise), and Reakirt's blue (Hemiargus isola) as well as several species of moths.


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Vachellia farnesiana
sweet acacia

Mostly evergreen tree to 20+’
Full sun, moderate to low water, 15º F
Sweet-smelling flowers attract all sorts of nectar-feeding insects. Larval host for the Mexican yellow (Eurema mexicana), Mimosa yellow (Pyrisitia nise), and Reakirt's blue (Hemiargus isola) as well as several species of moths.

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Vachellia rigidula
Blackbrush acacia

Semi-evergreen tree (often a large shrub) to 15’
Full to part sun, low water, 20º F
Sweet-smelling flowers attract all sorts of nectar-feeding insects. Larval host for the Mexican yellow (Eurema mexicana), Mimosa yellow (Pyrisitia nise), and Reakirt's blue (Hemiargus isola) as well as several species of moths.

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Vachellia schaffneri
twisted acacia

Semi-evergreen tree (often a large shrub) to 20’
Full to part sun, low water, 15º F
Sweet-smelling flowers attract all sorts of nectar-feeding insects. Larval host for the Mexican yellow (Eurema mexicana), Mimosa yellow (Pyrisitia nise), and Reakirt's blue (Hemiargus isola) as well as several species of moths.


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Vachellia schottii
Schott’s Acacia

Very similar species to V. constricta but with a more wispy appearance. This is the Chihuahuan Desert version (V. constricta is a Sonoran Desert species).
Semi-evergreen tree (often a large shrub) to 15’ or more
Full to part sun, low water, 10º F
Sweet-smelling flowers attract all sorts of nectar-feeding insects. Larval host for the Mexican yellow (Eurema mexicana), Mimosa yellow (Pyrisitia nise), and Reakirt's blue (Hemiargus isola) as well as several species of moths.


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vachellia vernicosa
viscid acacia

Deciduous tree (often a large shrub) to about 10’
Full to part sun, low water, 0º F
Sweet-smelling flowers attract all sorts of nectar-feeding insects. Larval host for the Mexican yellow (Eurema mexicana), Mimosa yellow (Pyrisitia nise), and Reakirt's blue (Hemiargus isola) as well as several species of moths.


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Washingtonia filifera
Desert Fan Palm

Erect palm trees to 100+’
Full sun, low water, 20º F
Excellent habitat trees, especially if skirts (dry, old fronts that hang on to the trunk) are left unpruned—hosts birds, bats, and insects of all sorts. Fruits used by many mammals and birds.


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ziziphus obtusifolia
Graythorn

Most of the time a large shrub to about 8’ but sometimes a tree to 15’
Full sun, low water, 15º F
An incredible wildlife plant providing nesting habitat, safe haven for birds (because of the spinescent branches), nectar rich flowers that attract all sorts of insects, fruits and insects also attract many birds. Larval host for Pyrrha’s prominent moth (Cargida pyrrha).