Saturday, December 1, 2012

Desert Willow Tree | Chilopsis Linearis


Like a true willow (Salix), Desert-willow (Chilopsis linearis) has long narrow leaves and grows  in streambanks, river banks or along watercourses in the desert called wadi, wash or arroyo. The desert-willow has adapted to desert washes, and does best with just enough water to keep it blooming and healthily green through the hot months.  The U.S.D.A. map shows it growing naturally in the mountainous  regions of the southwestern states and Mexico.

The blossom is funnel-shaped,  1-2" long, spreading at the opening into five ruffled petal-like scalloped or crenate lobes.The flowers are irregular in shape with a gradation from light pink to purple with intense purple venation often with white or yellow and purple streaks within the throat. The catalpa-like flowers are born in terminal racemes.

Chilopsis linearis is considered a very large shrub to small tree, 15-40 ft., slender-twigged, often with leaning, twisting trunk and open, spreading crown found naturally in the streambanks and watercourses.  The leaves are linear, many times longer than wide, with a strong central vein. Leaves are deciduous and willow-like. 

By early autumn, the violet-scented flowers, which appear after summer rains, are replaced by slender seedpods, 6–10 inches long, which remain dangling from the branches and serve to identify the tree after the flowers are gone The seeds are usually highly viable with a high percentage germination rate. If you want to start desert willow from seed try planting a few in the fall, saving a few seeds for spring planting, in case a cold snap freezes the tender seedlings.

©  Grassroots Horticulture