Regularity: Regularly occurring
Gulf of California Xeric Scrub
This taxon occurs in the Gulf of California xeric scrub ecoregion, situated along the eastern coastal zone and Gulf of California versant of the Baja Peninsula in Mexico, and is delineated by the spine of the La Giganta Sierra Mountains. This ecoregion, located entirely within the nation of Mexico, is classified within the Deserts and Xeric Scrublands biome. Species richness of plants is high in the ecoregion, but modest for fauna; however, endemism is high in this arid habitat, which receives some of the lowest precipitation in all of Mexico.
Dominant flora species are Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata) and White Bursage (Ambrosia dumosa); moreover, other plant taxa occurring here include: Arizona Nettle-spurge (Jatropha cinerea), Desert Ironwood (Olneya tesota), Acacia brandegeana, Blue Palo Verde (Cercidium floridum), and Chloroleucon mangense var. leucospermum. Species of more mesic habitats occur on the many oases that are present on the Baja Peninsula: Mexican Fan Palm (Washingtonia robusta), Southern Cattail (Typha domingensis), Common Reed (Phragmites australis) and Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera). The oases are remnants of more extensive mesic environments that existed in the peninsula in prehistoric times; these earlier habitats consisted of larger bodies of surface water distributed throughout the peninsula, surrounded by vegetation that belongs to wetlands interspersed with common elements of the xeric scrub.
The Isla Santa Catalina Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylus bugastrolepis) is an endemic reptile to the Gulf of California xeric scrub, occurring only on Isla Santa Catalina, and often found in dead cacti. Other reptile species found here include: the endemic Santa Catalina Island Whiptail (Cnemidophorus catalinensis), seen only on Santa Catalina Island in the Gulf of California; the endemic Santa Catalina Island Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus lineatulus); the endemic San Lorenzo Islands Lizard (Uta antiqua); the endemic Salsipuedes Island Whiptail (Cnemidophorus canus), restricted in occurrence to endemic to the islands of Salsipuedes, San Lorenzo Norte and San Lorenzo Sur ; the endemic Raza Island Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylus tinklei), found on Raza Island; the endemic Santa Cruz Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylus santacruzensis); the endemic Isla Partida Del Norte Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylus partidus), found solely on Isla Partida Norte and Cardonosa Este, in the Gulf of California; the endemic Angel Island Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylus angelensis), found only on several Gulf of California islands in the county of Islas Angel de la Guarda; the endemic Las Animas Island Gecko (Phyllodactylus apricus); and the near-endemic Marbled Whiptail (Cnemidophorus marmoratus), the latter of which occupies burrows in sandy soils.
There are a number of mammalian taxa present in the Gulf of California xeric scrub, including: Angel Island Mouse (Peromyscus guardia CR), an ecoregion endemic known only from Ángel de la Guarda Island in the northern Gulf of California, México; the ecoregion endemic Burt's Deermouse (Peromyscus caniceps CR), known only from Montserrat Island, Baja California Sur, Mexico; Baja California Rock Squirrel (Spermophilus atricapillus EN), a Baja California endemic; and the Fish-eating Bat (Myotis vivesi VU), which is found along in the coastal zone of Baja California and Sonora. Bunker's Woodrat (Neotoma bunkeri EX) was previously endemic to the ecoregion and is now extinct.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Olneya tesota
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Olneya tesota
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure
Olneya tesota is a perennial flowering tree of the Fabaceae family, legumes (peas, beans, etc.), which is commonly known as Ironwood or Desert Ironwood. It is the only species in the monotypic genus Olneya. This tree is part of the western Sonoran Desert complex in the Southwestern United States, which includes flora such as palo verde, saguaro, ocotillo, brittlebush, creosote bush, and mesquite.
The Desert Ironwood grows as a bush or tree and reaches heights of about 10 metres (33 ft), and average trunk diameters of about 60 cm (24 in); in exceptional sites in larger protected washes, greater height and more massive.
In younger trees, the bark is gray, shiny, and smooth; in older trees the bark is broken open. The tree is an evergreen plant, but can lose its leaves if temperatures fall below 2 °C (36 °F). In continual drought conditions leaves will be lost.
Leaves are bluish-green and pinnate compound. Leaves are arranged on a petiole, 6 in (15 cm) long, with 6-9 leaflets-(or variously up to 15, 7, 7-opposite, and one terminal), each being 0.7 to 2.5 cm (0.28 to 0.98 in). At the base of each pinnate leaf petiole grow two thorns, about 1 cm (0.39 in) long.
Bloom time occurs in late April/May to June. Flowers are of 5 unequal petals, in colors of medium purple, magenta-red, or also white to pale pink. Seedpods are 5–8 cm (2–4 in) long, and light reddish brown. When seedpods are ripened two other species Parkinsonia florida-(Blue Palo Verde), and Acacia constricta-(Catclaw Acacia) have similar light red brownish colors. Catclaw acacia seedpods are noticeably J-shaped and of shorter length.
Range and location
The Desert Ironwood, Olneya is native to the southwestern United States and extreme northwestern Mexico in the Baja California Peninsula and the Sonoran Desert, and is partially an indicator species of that desert. Within Mexico its range includes the states of Baja California Sur and Baja California, on the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) side east of the cordillera ranges, and Sonora state west of the Sierra Madre Occidental cordillera, in the south approaching the northern border of northern Sinaloa state. In the southwestern US its range includes the Colorado Desert of southeast Southern California, a part of the Sonoran Desert, and western and southern Arizona. Olneya does not range into the higher-elevation, colder, southeast of Arizona's Sonoran Desert region, nor into the sky islands of the Madrean Sky Islands region.
Ironwood Forest National Monument in south-central Arizona is named for Olneya tesota.
An indicator species
Olneya tesota is an indicator species of the Sonoran Desert region, The Sonoran Desert has one other species with the identical north-south, and east-west range. The seasonally migrating Lesser Long-nosed Bat follows the bloom season of various species from south to north and extends into the same regions of the Sonoran Desert as Olneya; (their ranging maps are virtually identical). The bat ranges from southern Baja California del Sur and north into the southwestern United States.
In the north, both species define the Colorado Desert subregion of the Sonoran Desert surrounding the northern end of the Gulf of California; further south in the Baja Peninsula the sub-division is defined as the Vizcaino Desert.
Other winter time and permanent ranges of the bat extend into northern countries of Central America.
Use and workability
Olneya ironwood is very hard and heavy. Its density is greater than water and thus sinks; it does not float downstream in washes, and must be moved by current motion. One popular usage for the wood is for knife handles, since its hardness, beautiful grain, and coloring is ideal.
Due to its considerable hardness, processing desert ironwood is difficult. Final treatment of the wood with solutions can also be difficult because of its high density.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Olneya tesota.|
- Little. Atlas of United States Trees, Volume 3, Minor Western Hardwoods, Little, Elbert L, 1976, US Government Printing Office. Library of Congress No. 79-653298. Map 103, Olneya tesota.
To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!