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Q&AZ: If palo verde trees are native to Arizona, why do they fall during monsoons?

Through KJZZ's Q&AZ reporting project, a listener asked: If palo verde trees are native to Arizona, why do they break and topple during monsoon storms?

Jessie Byrd with the Native Plant Nursery in Pima County says it’s mostly due to overwatering. Palo verdes can grow quickly, but these growth spurts lead to weaker bark.

“If people buy a nice palo verde or there's one in their yard they tend to water it a lot to make it grow faster,” Byrd said. “And when that happens the wood becomes really really weak and so it’s not a tough, strong, slow desert tree.”

Byrd also recommends gradually moving irrigation lines farther and farther away from the trunk of the tree.

This allows the roots to grow deeper and out farther, strengthening the base and reducing the likelihood that it will fall in strong winds.

“It's good to try and encourage native plants but part of why they have problems is the way that we treat them, so I always encourage people to use a wild plant but also try and treat it like a wild plant,” she said.

Q&AZ answers more listener questions

Claire Caulfield was a reporter and Morning Edition producer from 2015 to 2019.