Ironwood Trees


Ironwood trees are one of my favorite landscape trees for Arizona. You have probably seen them before, but because they are not brightly colored, you may not have noticed them. Here are some photos to help you identify the next one you see. The wood from ironwood trees is so dense it sinks in water. You have probably seen little statues carved from ironwood.



This tree has been in my yard for a few years and gets watered twice a month. It’s canopy is green and full, and I have pruned it to have a singe trunk for the first three feet, then split into three main branches. I may raise the canopy in time, but it has plenty of space to grow wide, so I may just let it be. The thorns make pruning difficult.


This ironwood in a parking lot in Tucson has a nice form. I like the many trunks and branches with raised canopy.


This large tree is probably 25 feet tall. Remember the full size of the tree (30×30) when you plant so that you don’t have to take it out or fight (prune) with it yearly when it reaches mature size.


This tree receives almost daily water and grew into a bush before its canopy was raised. Ironwoods can grow fast if watered frequently, but the form may not be as natural as a slower-growing tree.


Here is a native ironwood growing in the desert. The gray-green bark and airy foliage make it less noticeable, but it is a plant worth seeing. Ironwoods provide food and shelter for desert animals and birds. One site estimates that ironwoods are used by 150 bird species. The shade provided by an ironwood tree allows other plants to get a foothold in the desert. Any desert tree that shelters new plants is called a nurse tree.


This ironwood growing at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is estimated to be 220 years old.


Ironwoods bloom in May with dusty mauve flowers. The tree blooms heavily in alternating years. None of the ironwood trees on my property have bloomed yet, making me wonder at what age or size the tree begins reproducing.

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