Lysiloma watsonii

Accession Count: 16
Common Name: featherbush
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Family Name: Fabaceae
Botanical Name: Lysiloma watsonii
Botanical Synonyms: Lysiloma thornberi, Lysiloma watsoni
Sub Species:

The feather tree is a winter evergreen with alternate leaf arrangement and bi-pinnately compound leaves. There are six to eight pairs of pinnae with 20 to 25 pairs of leaflets, that are three-sixteenth of an inch long. These leaves are bright green and feathery and may partially defoliate in late spring. Flowers are small, fluffy looking, pale cream colored ball borne in terminal clusters in late spring. Fruits are dry indehiscent, somewhat flat, legume pods growing 4 - 6 inches long and 1 inch wide. The impression of large disk-shaped seeds can be seen across the surface of the thin pod covering.

Compound: Lys wat
Geographic Origin: Mexican Desert
Ecozone Origin: Nearctic
Biome Origin:
Natural History:
Lysiloma watsonii is native to and cultivated mostly in the southern United States near Arizona, as well as in northern Sonora Mexico (3).  This species has changed scientific names from L. thornberi to L. micorphylla finally its current name, and is known by several common names including desert fern, feather brush and feather tree (2).  The L. watsonii is a part of the Fabacea or legume family that has over 16,000 species in a variety of habitats around the world (3). 
Cultivation Notes: Lysiloma watsonii is known as a desert tree and generally grows with two or three main stems (2).  It grows best in full sun in most areas and filtered shade in some of the hotter parts of Arizona and Mexico (2).  The fern tree grows in most well drained soils, but is most well adapted to alkaline soils.  It is advisable to water once or twice a month during hot summers.  L. watsonii tends to leaf out after the rains start, or in early April and May (1).  They drop large amounts of leaf litter and seed pods at the end of the growing season.  L. watsonii is best known for its beautiful dark brown wood and feathery foliage when well cultivated (1).
Ethnobotany: The inner layer of dark bark of the Lysiloma watsonii is brewed into medicinal tea to relieve gas and symptoms of liver problems (1).  Heating the tea has also been known to raise the body temperature for women who are infertile because of ingestion of low temperature foods (1).  The wood of the plant can be used to make posts and molds for building.  This tree provides shelter for animals such as quail, cardinals, mockingbird and doves during hot weather and nesting season (2).

Height: 11 - 15 feet
Width: 11 - 15 feet
Growth Rate: Fast Growing
Grow Season: Spring
Flower Season:
Color: Cream
Function: Shade
Spread: Spreading
Allergen: Non-allergenic
Invasive: Invasive
Toxicity: Benign
Water Use: Moderate Water Use

1. Robichaux, R.H., and Yetman, D. (2000). The Tropical Deciduous Forest of Alamos: Biodiversity of a Threatened Ecosystem in Mexico. Print.

2.Unknown. (2008). Trees and Shrubs for the Southwest: Woody Plants for Arid Gardens. Timber Press. Print.

3.Arizona Desert Museum Digital Library.Dimmitt, Mark. "Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Digital Library." Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Digital Library. ASDM Press, 2000. Web. 9 Dec. 2013
4. Starr, Greg. Starr Nursery. Personal Communication.


Lysiloma watsonii