It’s a common misconception that Arizona is only about cactus plants. Many types of trees are native to and thrive in Arizona. Because there is a great range of elevations from sea level to 12,000 feet in this state, there are many different habitats for trees. Five types of oak and 6 varieties of pine do well in Arizona where the state tree is the beautiful Blue Palo Verde. They grow all over the Sonoran Desert.
Noted plant lover Ruth picked up a guide to the common trees of Arizona at the Tuzigoot National Monument. It gives information about 47 different trees that do well here. I learned a lot about this state’s trees at Montezuma’s Castle in the verdant Verde Valley.
Native Americans knew their trees well and prized them. They especially liked the ones that grow along streams, like the Velvet Mesquite. Native Americans ground its seeds into meal and baked the meal into cakes. They made candy from the mesquite’s sap. They learned to treat eye and skin ailments and the common cold from parts of this tree. They also prized the Arizona Sycamore seen just below, its white bark, and its star-shaped leaves. They used sycamore wood to make roof beams in their cliff dwellings. The residents of Casa Grande ate mesquite pods and cooked and ate many varieties of beans. They relied on cottonwoods and willows to make baskets, ropes, blowguns, and flutes.
The 5 most common trees in Arizona are the Blue Palo Verde, the Cat’s Claw Acacia, the Desert Ironwood, the Desert Willow, and the Foothills Palo Verde. Hackberrys and mesquites are the 2 species that follow these five. The Ironwood grows hairy pods and is found along washes. The Blue Palo Verde is known for its blue-green bark, and the foothills variety has yellow-green bark and is common in desert settings.