As part of the ambitious federal reforestation project called ProArbol, the Sonoran Government recently sent thousands of trees into the various municipalities of the state. Puerto Penasco was the recipient of several thousand of those trees, which were trucked into the community around the middle of May, 2009. Alberto Carlos Cañez Tiznado, Director of Ecology for the area, says the trees will mostly be planted in parks, gardens, schoolyards and other public areas to beautify the city, but that is not all.
In addition, trees will be planted in the new colonias around town to help green them up, provide cooling shade and improve the appearance of the neighborhoods. Cañez-Tiznado has also stated that trees not used for those specific purposes will be given to any citizen of Puerto Penasco who asks for one.
The trees to be planted are palo verde, palo fierro (ironwood) and mesquite, which are native to this part of the region and do not need great amounts water to thrive, according to the Director of Ecology.
Palo Fierro (Olneya tesota): The Palo Fierro, also known as the Desert Ironwood tree, grows naturally only in the Sonoran Desert, can reach a height of 45 feet and is known to live as long as 1,500 years. An evergreen, it is often used in landscape plantings as a shade tree. The temperature beneath an established tree can be as much as 15 degrees cooler that the surrounding air temperature. From May to June it bears clusters of pea-like flowers ranging from lavendar and pink to white, which grow in arches at the end of branches. Following the flowers come brown, bean-like seedpods about 2 inches long, which mature in early summer. Each seedpod has 1 to 4 brown beans in it. During dry seasons, ironwoods will drop many of their leaves to conserve water but they do not drop all of their leaves. For more information, visit http://www.desertmuseum.org/programs/ifnm_ironwoodtree.php
Photo, seen above, courtesy http://redescolar.ilce.edu.mx/
Palo verde(Cercidium floridum): Also native to the Sonoran Desert, the Palo Verde is the state tree of Arizona. It can reach a height of 32 feet and has a deep root system which allows it to tap into the ground water and survive periods of extended drought. Palo Verde means ‘green stick’ in Spanish, a name which refers to the green stems and bark of the tree. These trees are drought deciduous, shedding their leaves during extended dry spells. When no leaves are present the plant relies on its green stems and branches to carry on the essential energy-producing process of photosynthesis. From March through May Palo Verde are covered with an abundance of small yellow flowers, very attractive to honey bees. The flowering is followed in about a month by seed pods, the fruits of which are very attractive to a variety of birds and small mammals. The Palo Verde provides light shade. For more information and pictures, see http://www.livingdesert.org/plants/palo_verde.asp
Mesquite tree: The most common shrub/small tree in the Sonoran Desert, the Mesquite is deciduous and shares the characteristic bean pods of the prior two trees. These pods have long been used by humans, wildlife and livestock as a food source. It is estimated that over 75% of a Coyote's diet in late summer is mesquite beans. Mesquite trees are also found in the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico. These trees generally reach a height of 20 to 30 feet, although in most of their range they are shrub size. Its taproot has been known to reach as deep as 190 feet. Mesquite grows quickly and furnishes shade and wildlife habitat where other trees will not grow. An all-around plant, it is famous for its hard, fragrant wood when used as firewood, but its uses don't stop there. Its wood is also used for furniture and decorative woodworking and woodturning. Native Americans relied on the mesquite pod as a dietary staple from which they made tea, syrup and a ground meal called pinole. They also used used the bark for basketry, fabrics and medicine. A favorite of bees and other insects, mesquite flowers produce a fragrant honey. For more information see http://www.desertusa.com/jan97/du-smesquite.html
In January 2007 the federal government launched an ambitious program called ProArbol amid much fanfare. More than just a reforestation program, ProArbol was rolled out to include conservation and employment issues as well as to overcome decades of neglect and mismanagement of the nation's forests. Two years into the program, results are mixed and there is controversy surrounding it, but there is no doubt that millions of new trees and other plants have been planted. For a thorough look at how things stand today, visit David Agren's blog Tales from San Lazaro.