Lysiloma watsonii
Common Name: littleleaf false tamarind 
Type: Tree
Family: Fabaceae
Native Range: Mexico
Zone: 9 to 11
Height: 11.00 to 15.00 feet
Spread: 11.00 to 15.00 feet
Bloom Time: March to June
Bloom Description: Creamy-white
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual, Hedge, Shade Tree
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Attracts: Birds
Tolerate: Drought, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil


Best grown in medium to dry, alkaline, well-draining soils in full sun. Tolerates poor, dry soils and drought once established. Provide supplemental water for the best growth and appearance in prolonged periods of drought. Light afternoon shade is also beneficial in hotter climates. Heavy frost can potentially cause significant dieback. Takes well to pruning, but does not make a good standard. Best to leave 2-3 main stems to support the canopy, while removing any root suckers or side branches to maintain a cleaner appearance. Can also be left to sucker and used as a more natural hedge or screen. Hardy in Zones 9-11.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Lysiloma watsonii, commonly called littleleaf false tamarind, feather bush, or fern of the desert, is a semi-evergreen to deciduous, multi-stemmed, large shrub to medium sized tree native to rocky slopes, canyons, thorn-scrub and tropical deciduous forests of the Rincon Mountains in southern Arizona, United States, and northern Sonora, Mexico. It is also found in cultivation, where mature plants will reach between 12-15' tall with an equal spread. In the wild (especially in the warmer and wetter southern end of its native range) individuals can reach 45-50' tall. This fast growing species will have an upright growth habit when young, while mature specimens take on a more spreading canopy shape. Its branches lack the thorns commonly found on other desert legumes. The bipinnately compound foliage (up to 6" long) has a fine, feathery appearance, and turns yellow in the spring before dropping off and being replaced by vibrant, lime-green new growth. The arrival of spring rains also triggers blooming. Creamy-white flowers are held in terminal clusters of spherical racemes (around 0.5" in diameter). The flowers are followed by large, flattened, pendulous bean pods (up to 9" long and 1" wide) that mature from green to brown.

Synonymous with L. thornberi and L. microphylla var. thornberi.

Genus name is derived from Greek and probably means "free border" in reference to the manner in which the seeds pods disintegrate.

The specific epithet watsonii most likely honors Sereno Watson (1826-1892), an American botanist, herbarium curator, and assistant to Asa Gray.

The common names of this species mostly refer to the appearance of the foliage.


No major pest or disease problems of note.


Suitable for use as a small specimen tree, hedge, screen, or planted near a patio or other seating area for shade. Drought tolerant and useful for xeriscaping.