Ajuntament de Barcelona

Parkinsonia aculeata

Porta de Montjuïc

    Catalan name: 
    Parkinsònia, parquinsònia
    Spanish name: 
    Espinillo
    English name: 
    Mexican palo verde
    Species characteristics
    Family: 
    Fabaceae
    Origin: 
    From southern United States to northern Argentina
    Habitat: 
    River banks, but well adapted to dry places
    Characteristics: 

    Deciduous tree 3-10 m tall, with green smooth trunk. The branches, with prickles 7-12 mm long at the knots, appear  in zigzag into groups of three. Both the stems and the leaves have trichomes (small hairs). 

    The leaves, compound, are formed by 3 o 4 pinnae (stems) 20-30 cm long with two opposed lines of 25-30 greyish-green oval leaflets (small leaves).

    The flowers, very fragrant, measuring 2 cm in diameter and with a long peduncle, appear into hanging terminal or axillary inflorescences, of 8-10 flowers each one. They are yellow with reddish marks on the upper petal; some varieties have a completely coral-coloured upper petal.

    The fruit is a dehiscent (it opens spontaneously to release the seeds) and dun leathery legume, 5-15 cm long, up to 8 elongated greenish brown seeds.

    Flowering time: 
    July-September
    Fruiting time: 
    Early autumn
    Uses and properties: 

    The Mexican Palo Verde is harvested isolated as a decoration tree in ornamental gardens as well as in group. Its wood, hard and heavy but easily breakable, is used as firewood as well as raw material for fabrics and for carving.

    Its fruit is edible although usually reserved for cattle.

    The Mexican Palo Verde, with a short life span and fast growing, is salt and drought resilient (although it loses much of its leaves), but very sensitive to freeze and wind because of its breakable wood.

    History and curiosities: 

    The scientific name Parkinsonia aculeata consists of the genus name Parkinsonia —named by the French botanist Charles Plumier in honour of the British botanist John Parkinson (1567-1645)— and the Latin term aculeata, “thorny”.

    For further information: 

    LÓPEZ GONZÁLEZ, Ginés A. Los árboles y arbustos de la Península Ibérica e Islas Baleares. (2 vol.) Madrid: Mundi-Prensa, 2001