Nature’s Notebook

Connecting People with Nature to Benefit Our Changing Planet

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Photo for species Olneya_tesota

In the harsh, desert environment Olneya tesota is a "nurse" plant to many plant species, providing shade, temperature modification, and protection for seedlings; over 230 different plant species have been recorded growing beneath an ironwood canopy. A study has shown that as a nurse plant, Olneya tesota increases biological diversity in extreme environments. Also, its dense wood, which will not float in water, is used for fuel and charcoal, and for tools and implements. Native Americans prepared and roasted its pods and seeds to eat or ground them into flour to make mush, loaves, and cakes.

Photo Credit:
© G.A. Cooper, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database. Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution, Dept. of Systematic Biology, Botany.

Olneya tesota

desert ironwood
What does this species look like?
What does this species look like?: 

Desert ironwood is a single- to multi-stemmed, nearly evergreen tree growing 25 to 30 feet tall, or more. Its small, showy, pink to purple flowers have both male and female parts, are generally grouped into small clusters along the branches, and are insect-pollinated.

Desert ironwood usually grows in well-drained, sandy and rocky soils of plains, valleys, bajadas, and slopes, and along the sides of low depressions and dry washes in the Sonoran desert.

Where is this species found?
States & Provinces: 
AZ, CA
Which phenophases should I observe?
Leaves

Do you see...?

Young leaves
One or more young, unfolded leaves are visible on the plant. A leaf is considered "young" and "unfolded" once its entire length has emerged from a breaking bud, stem node or growing stem tip, so that the leaf stalk (petiole) or leaf base is visible at its point of attachment to the stem, but before the leaf has reached full size or turned the darker green color or tougher texture of mature leaves on the plant. Do not include fully dried or dead leaves.

How many young leaves are present?

Less than 3;3 to 10;11 to 100;101 to 1,000;1,001 to 10,000;More than 10,000

Leaves
One or more live, unfolded leaves are visible on the plant. A leaf is considered "unfolded" once its entire length has emerged from a breaking bud, stem node or growing stem tip, so that the leaf stalk (petiole) or leaf base is visible at its point of attachment to the stem. Do not include fully dried or dead leaves.

What percentage of the potential canopy space is full with leaves? Ignore dead branches in your estimate of potential canopy space.

Less than 5%;5-24%;25-49%;50-74%;75-94%;95% or more

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Colored leaves
One or more leaves show some of their typical late-season color, or yellow or brown due to drought or other stresses. Do not include small spots of color due to minor leaf damage, or dieback on branches that have broken. Do not include fully dried or dead leaves that remain on the plant.

What percentage of the potential canopy space is full with non-green leaf color? Ignore dead branches in your estimate of potential canopy space.

Less than 5%;5-24%;25-49%;50-74%;75-94%;95% or more

More...

Falling leaves
One or more leaves are falling or have recently fallen from the plant. More...

Flowers

Do you see...?

Flowers or flower buds
One or more fresh open or unopened flowers or flower buds are visible on the plant. Include flower buds or inflorescences that are swelling or expanding, but do not include those that are tightly closed and not actively growing (dormant). Also do not include wilted or dried flowers.

How many flowers and flower buds are present? For species in which individual flowers are clustered in flower heads, spikes or catkins (inflorescences), simply estimate the number of flower heads, spikes or catkins and not the number of individual flowers.

Less than 3;3 to 10;11 to 100;101 to 1,000;1,001 to 10,000;More than 10,000

More...

Open flowers
One or more open, fresh flowers are visible on the plant. Flowers are considered "open" when the reproductive parts (male stamens or female pistils) are visible between or within unfolded or open flower parts (petals, floral tubes or sepals). Do not include wilted or dried flowers.

What percentage of all fresh flowers (buds plus unopened plus open) on the plant are open? For species in which individual flowers are clustered in flower heads, spikes or catkins (inflorescences), estimate the percentage of all individual flowers that are open.

Less than 5%;5-24%;25-49%;50-74%;75-94%;95% or more

More...

Fruits

Do you see...?

Fruits
One or more fruits are visible on the plant. For Olneya tesota, the fruit is a pod that changes from green to light brown or dark red-brown and splits open to expose the seeds. Do not include empty pods that have already dropped all of their seeds.

How many fruits are present?

Less than 3;3 to 10;11 to 100;101 to 1,000;1,001 to 10,000;More than 10,000

More...

Ripe fruits
One or more ripe fruits are visible on the plant. For Olneya tesota, a fruit is considered ripe when it has turned light brown or dark red-brown. Do not include empty pods that have already dropped all of their seeds.

What percentage of all fruits (unripe plus ripe) on the plant are ripe?

Less than 5%;5-24%;25-49%;50-74%;75-94%;95% or more

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Recent fruit or seed drop
One or more mature fruits or seeds have dropped or been removed from the plant since your last visit. Do not include obviously immature fruits that have dropped before ripening, such as in a heavy rain or wind, or empty fruits that had long ago dropped all of their seeds but remained on the plant.

How many mature fruits have dropped seeds or have completely dropped or been removed from the plant since your last visit?

Less than 3;3 to 10;11 to 100;101 to 1,000;1,001 to 10,000;More than 10,000

More...