Another reason to appreciate the Sonoran Desert

Yesterday was the final day of Washington, DC’s, Cherry Blossom Festival. I would have been sad to miss the hordes seeking serenity from the pink cloud surrounding the Reflecting Pool, but we have our own show going on here in Tucson.

Just outside my front picture window is a sunburst of a palo verde (Cercidium microphyllum). You can see in my photo of the hummingbird nest that the entire trunk and bark is green – and yes, that is for photosynthesizing! Leaves lose too much water here, which might be why this tree that minimizes their area (“micro” and “phyllum” meaning little leaves!) has been so successful. But how does that tough bark-y structure breath, if not by the same stomata that lose water in the leaves? I don’t know the answer to that, and a quick Google Search doesn’t either.

Despite the similarity in these trees’ structures and seasonal showy blooms, cherries and palo verdes have almost nothing in common. Palo verde (meaning “green stick,” this tree leaves nothing hidden) is in the pea family, Fabaceae, order Fabales, while the cherry tree common on the National Mall (Prunus x Yedoensis, or the Yoshido cherry hybrid) is in the rose family, Rosaceae, order Rosales. You have to get all the way back to their class, Angiosperms, which means they are both flowering plants, before they have some lineage in common. Given that the vast majority of plants on earth are in that class, they really don’t have much to talk about.

So would I take the liquid sunshine of the palo verde over the delicate blush of the cherries? Well, we may not have an entire festival for the flowering trees (allergies, anyone?), but we do have the Taco Festival here in Tucson today. Eat that, DC.

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