Blossoms of the Ironwood

From any distance farther than ten feet, our ironwood tree has the most unremarkable floral display of any of the flora in the yard. I almost cannot see them at all.

But, up close, they are quite beautiful. This shot captures all stages of the flower on a single twig.

As it happens, there are hundreds of species that are referred to as “ironwood,” technically any wood that’s heavier that water and won’t float. But more generally, the term is casually applied to any really hard wood species.

Our tree is a “desert ironwood,” aka, “palo fierro” (iron stick), or Olneya tesota. I just discovered (by reading, not by trying) that the seeds can be eaten after roasting…I’m assuming “after” because they’d be too hard before!

Wikipedia says that the lesser long-nose bat follows the bloom season for Olneya, and we know first-hand that bees and hummingbirds love the blossoms on our tree. Our resident quail pair and their babies spend many hours scratching and pecking at the ground underneath it. Perhaps they are eating the dried blossoms that have dropped.

Of course, to most tourists, “ironwood” conjures images of “Mexican” carvings of animals, which are ubiquitous to the trading posts and tourist shops in the Southwest.

In actuality, the art form began in the 1950s with the Seri indigenous island people of the Gulf of California, upon their relocation to the Mexican state of Sonora.

This quail and coyote are from Globe, Arizona’s Pickle Barrel Trading Post website. Check them out for more on the history of the Seri people.

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