Olneya tesota, commonly known as desert ironwood, is considered as the world’s one of the rarest, most expensive and hardest timbers of the world.
Whereas the tree is known as Ironwood in the U.S. or Mexico borderland, the same plant is referred to as “Palo Fierro” in Spain. It produces bluish-gray oval leaves that only drop when there’s a prolonged drought or the freezing temperature outside.
As the name implies, Desert Ironwood grows along only the dry washes of the desert region of Mexico, California and Arizona. Does that mean you can collect timbers from these regions whenever you want?
The living Ironwood is exceptionally well-protected! As it provides resources for over 500 other species, a licensed individual can collect timber from dead trees only.
To learn more mind-boggling facts about Desert Ironwood, grab a coffee and stay tuned to this article!
Desert Ironwood As A Keystone Species
What’s a keystone species?
As we have explained in brief before, it’s something that the eco-system can’t live without. Every eco-system has some specific planet/animal that is critical to the survival of other species.
In this case, Tesota generates nitrogen that enriches the soil and thus makes it possible for some desert plants to germinate and grow at a faster rate.
In addition, the tree canopy provides shades that adjust the surface temperature about 10-Degrees, thus protecting young plants from the extreme weather condition. It maintains the structure of many other habitats such as, flora and fauna and helps hold the entire ecosystem together.
The Ironwood trees are long-lived. In fact, some of them have been discovered to be up to 1500 years old! For all this reason, this tree is also considered as one of the oldest desert nurse trees in the world as of now.
Anatomy Of An Ironwood
Desert Ironwood is a member of the pea family as their leaves and flowers resemble the shape of sweet pea.
With a height of 15- to 45-feet the trees are pretty tall compared to other desert plants. The average trunk size of the tree is about 24-inch in diameter.
Olneya is an evergreen tree, which provides bluish-green and pinnately compound leaves all year round. However, if the temperature falls below 2-Degree Celsius or there’s a continuous drought in the surrounding area, the leaves may fall down temporarily.
The bark on the young trees is smooth, shiny and gray in color. As time passes, it becomes a bit wrinkled at old age (Just like us humans!). The younger trees come with spikes which slowly disappear as they grow up.
After the flower blossoms end, edible, brown seedpods begin to develop in that place, which is a major food source for many animals.
Characteristics Of Desert Ironwood
Big Size And Heavyweight
With a massive 45-feet height, Ironwood is easily spotted as one of the tallest trees in its region.
The tree is multi-trunked in most of the cases. The name “Ironwood” is actually a reference to its dense, iron-like wood that’s derived from it. With a massive 66 pounds of weight per cubic foot, it’s actually considered as one of the heaviest woods in the world.
Ironwood flowers grow in clusters. And they make a spectacular view of colorful combination from the late April all through to early June.
The flower blossoms range in color from pink to lavender to white. When the flower withers away, brown, bean-like seed pods that are about 2 inches long.
Natural Defense Mechanism
Tesota is always covered with evergreen leaves. Each leaf is covered with fine hair and comes with a leathery texture all over its surface. to survive from the harsh environment, the leaves come with a pair of 0.5-inch long thorn at their bases.
The ironwood timber helps get rid of a lot of diseases and is considered as the “pharmacy” for the local people. The root of the tree can be used to make a paste that can cure gum infection. You can also make tea from the leaves to cure asthmatic problems.
A Restful Shade In The Desert
The Olneya creates a beautiful shadow across its surrounding environment. In the middle of a hot climate region, the canopy provides a serene shade to rest under. You will find a lot of plants and animal species sheltered under its canopy for survival.
Is Desert Ironwood Toxic?
Ironwood tree comes with a slightly unpleasant smell that’s quite different from other trees.
The timber from this tree is pretty toxic. In fact, it is so toxic that it takes around 1600 years just for a single piece of this wood to decompose. Most saprophytes and termites can’t handle chewing upon the wood because of the amount of chemical it contains.
Uses Of Desert Ironwood
- Desert Ironwood is one of the best materials to be used for knife-making business. The density, stability and beautiful color make it an ideal substance for making decorative handles.
- As the timber is pretty hard and strong, you can use it for woodworking, charcoal etc. The timber of this tree makes for a good source of fuel.
- It provides habitat for many plants and animals. According to a study, ironwood is home to more than 150 species of bird, 60 reptiles and 64 mammals all around the world.
- Ancient people used to make different types of tool handles from this timber. The Native Americans used to make arrowheads and trinkets to make their tool sharper and more dangerous than before.
- The seeds from this tree are a great source of nutrients. You can toast and grind the seeds to make protein-rich flour that tastes almost similar to peanut butter.
Wrapping It Up
Olneya Tesota is one of the most beautiful and oldest living things.
We have been using this timber for centuries as a good source of food. As a result, it has slowly become in danger of becoming extinct.
Since the survival of 500 other species depends upon this plant, it’s high time illegal harvesting of Desert Ironwood should be prohibited strictly.
Hopefully, our article has satisfied your curb and gave you an insightful peek at this beautiful, grandiose tree of the desert.