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Useful Temperate Plants

Olneya tesota

A.Gray

Fabaceae

+ Synonyms

Common Name: Desert Ironwood

No Image.

General Information

Olneya tesota is a spiny, evergreen shrub or small tree with a deep taproot; it can grow 8 - 10 metres tall. The trunk is gnarled, often several are produced as a result of trees being cut back by grazing or coppicing, they can have a diameter that often exceeds 45cm. Trees are more or less evergreen, but can drop their leaves during a drought[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
,
1309
Title
The Leguminosae; A Source Book of Characteristics, Uses and Nodulation
Publication
 
Author
Allen O.N.; Allen E.K.
Publisher
University of Wisconsin
Year
1981
ISBN
0-333-32221-5
Description
An amazing and comprehensive work, giving a brief guide to the many genera of the family Fabaceae and also the principle uses of the genus.
,
1542
Title
Olneya Beans. A Native Food Product of the Arizona Desert, Worthy of Domestication
Publication
The Journal of Heredity Vol 10, No 1, January 1919
Author
Cook O.F.
Publisher
 
Year
1919
ISBN
 
Description
A detailed study of Olneya tesota and its possibility as a cultivated food crop
].
The tree is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and source of wood. It has been suggested as a potential food crop for drier regions[
1542
Title
Olneya Beans. A Native Food Product of the Arizona Desert, Worthy of Domestication
Publication
The Journal of Heredity Vol 10, No 1, January 1919
Author
Cook O.F.
Publisher
 
Year
1919
ISBN
 
Description
A detailed study of Olneya tesota and its possibility as a cultivated food crop
]. A handsome flowering tree, it is also worthy of consideration as an ornamental[
1309
Title
The Leguminosae; A Source Book of Characteristics, Uses and Nodulation
Publication
 
Author
Allen O.N.; Allen E.K.
Publisher
University of Wisconsin
Year
1981
ISBN
0-333-32221-5
Description
An amazing and comprehensive work, giving a brief guide to the many genera of the family Fabaceae and also the principle uses of the genus.
].

Known Hazards

Sawdust from this wood is reported to irritate the eyes and nose[
316
Title
Tropical Timbers of the World. Ag. Handbook No. 607.
Publication
 
Author
Chudnoff. Martin.
Publisher
USDA Forest Service. Wisconsin.
Year
1984
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details on the properties of the wood of almost 400 species of trees from the Tropics.
].

Botanical References

71
Title
A California Flora.
Publication
 
Author
Munz P.A. & Keck D.D.
Publisher
University of California Press; Los Angeles
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent flora but no pictures. Not for the casual reader.

Range

South-western N. America - southeastern California, southern Arizona and northwestern Mexico (Baja Norte, Baja Sur, Sonora).

Habitat

Dry desert watercourses, sandy and rocky soils of plains, slopes and along dry washes, where storm runoff increases the available moisture, often forming open woodland with other tree species; at elevations up to 900 metres[
71
Title
A California Flora.
Publication
 
Author
Munz P.A. & Keck D.D.
Publisher
University of California Press; Los Angeles
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent flora but no pictures. Not for the casual reader.
,
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].

Properties

Edibility Rating *  *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *  *
HabitEvergreen Tree
Height9.00 m
Cultivation StatusWild

Cultivation Details

Olneya tesota is a plant of drier to arid regions in southwestern N. America, growing in areas where summers can be very hot, up to 45°c, but winters are mild and frosts are few and not very heavy. Trees can sustain considerable damage at around -6°c[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. It is found wild in areas where the mean annual rainfall is around 75 - 400mm[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].
Requires a sunny position in a well-drained soil[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. Prefers a pH in the range 7 - 8.5[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].
Trees are of a moderate rate of growth, and can be quite fast growing if irrigated - there are reports of new shoots 150cm long[
1542
Title
Olneya Beans. A Native Food Product of the Arizona Desert, Worthy of Domestication
Publication
The Journal of Heredity Vol 10, No 1, January 1919
Author
Cook O.F.
Publisher
 
Year
1919
ISBN
 
Description
A detailed study of Olneya tesota and its possibility as a cultivated food crop
].
A fairly long-lived species, with specimens up to 200 years old reported[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].
Trees are often cut back severely by grazing animals but usually resprout freely. Trees protected from grazing can be trimmed and coppiced, though very old wood will often fail to resprout[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
,
1542
Title
Olneya Beans. A Native Food Product of the Arizona Desert, Worthy of Domestication
Publication
The Journal of Heredity Vol 10, No 1, January 1919
Author
Cook O.F.
Publisher
 
Year
1919
ISBN
 
Description
A detailed study of Olneya tesota and its possibility as a cultivated food crop
].
Flowering is usually prolific every 2 - 5 years[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].
This is a rather variable species, especially with regard to the seeds and seedpods. Although only one bean in a pod is the rule on some trees, it usually is possible to find some pods with at least two or three beans. Many trees have pods with several seeds, and some are distinctly large-podded, to the extent of being nearly 13cm long and 10 - 12mm wide in the dry state. The largest pods seen had nine fully developed beans and two abortive, indicating that pods with eleven beans or more are sometimes produced[
1542
Title
Olneya Beans. A Native Food Product of the Arizona Desert, Worthy of Domestication
Publication
The Journal of Heredity Vol 10, No 1, January 1919
Author
Cook O.F.
Publisher
 
Year
1919
ISBN
 
Description
A detailed study of Olneya tesota and its possibility as a cultivated food crop
].
Some trees have relatively indehiscent pods that fall to the ground without shattering, while on other trees most of the pods open before falling, so that the individual beans have to be picked up, which takes much more time and labour[
1542
Title
Olneya Beans. A Native Food Product of the Arizona Desert, Worthy of Domestication
Publication
The Journal of Heredity Vol 10, No 1, January 1919
Author
Cook O.F.
Publisher
 
Year
1919
ISBN
 
Description
A detailed study of Olneya tesota and its possibility as a cultivated food crop
].
One tree found on a field trip had pods up to 13cm long and 12mm wide, with seeds up to 11mm long, 9mm wide and 8mm thick[
1542
Title
Olneya Beans. A Native Food Product of the Arizona Desert, Worthy of Domestication
Publication
The Journal of Heredity Vol 10, No 1, January 1919
Author
Cook O.F.
Publisher
 
Year
1919
ISBN
 
Description
A detailed study of Olneya tesota and its possibility as a cultivated food crop
].
Reports on the tree's ability to support nitrogen-producing bacteria on its roots are mixed. Trees growing wild in an Arizonan desert did not have root nodules, whilst trees grown from seed in Africa did have nodules[
1309
Title
The Leguminosae; A Source Book of Characteristics, Uses and Nodulation
Publication
 
Author
Allen O.N.; Allen E.K.
Publisher
University of Wisconsin
Year
1981
ISBN
0-333-32221-5
Description
An amazing and comprehensive work, giving a brief guide to the many genera of the family Fabaceae and also the principle uses of the genus.
].

Edible Uses

Seed - raw or cooked[
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
61
Title
A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Publication
 
Author
Usher. G.
Publisher
Constable
Year
1974
ISBN
0094579202
Description
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
,
105
Title
Tanaka's Cyclopedia of Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Tanaka. T. & Nakao S.
Publisher
Keigaku Publishing; Tokyo
Year
1976
ISBN
-
Description
The most comprehensive list of edible plants I've come across. Only the briefest entry for each species, though, and some of the entries are more than a little dubious. Not for the casual reader.
,
161
Title
Food Plants of the N. American Indians. Publication no. 237.
Publication
 
Author
Yanovsky. E.
Publisher
U.S. Depf of Agriculture.
Year
 
ISBN
-
Description
A comprehensive but very terse guide. Not for the casual reader.
,
1542
Title
Olneya Beans. A Native Food Product of the Arizona Desert, Worthy of Domestication
Publication
The Journal of Heredity Vol 10, No 1, January 1919
Author
Cook O.F.
Publisher
 
Year
1919
ISBN
 
Description
A detailed study of Olneya tesota and its possibility as a cultivated food crop
]. Usually eaten cooked, the roasted seed has a flavour similar to peanuts[
2
Title
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Hedrick. U. P.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1972
ISBN
0-486-20459-6
Description
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
]. The seeds are usually dried, lightly roasted and then ground into a flour for use, though they are also eaten whole as a snack after roasting[
257
Title
Native American Ethnobotany
Publication
 
Author
Moerman. D.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-88192-453-9
Description
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
]. On some trees, several seeds are produced in each seedpod, these seeds being around the size of peanuts with a similar taste and texture[
1542
Title
Olneya Beans. A Native Food Product of the Arizona Desert, Worthy of Domestication
Publication
The Journal of Heredity Vol 10, No 1, January 1919
Author
Cook O.F.
Publisher
 
Year
1919
ISBN
 
Description
A detailed study of Olneya tesota and its possibility as a cultivated food crop
].
The seeds are rich in protein (they contain around 19% protein, 61% carbohydrate and 10% fat) and have potential for use as a human food[
1543
Title
Protein Quality and Antinutritional Factors of Wild Legume Seeds from the Sonoran Desert
Publication
J. Agric. Food Chem. 1996, 44, 3130−3132
Author
Vázquez-Moreno L. & Robles-Burgueňo M.R.
Publisher
 
Year
1996
ISBN
 
Description
 
]. The dried, powdered seed has a digestibility rating of 74%, increasing to 79% when cooked - this is higher than for many of the commonly eaten legume foods. The seeds do contain antinutritional factors, including trypsin inhibitors, phenols, alkaloids and haemagglutinin, but these are not present in high enough concentration to constitute a major nutritional problem. These antinutritional factors are soluble in saline solutions and can be removed by soaking or during cooking[
1543
Title
Protein Quality and Antinutritional Factors of Wild Legume Seeds from the Sonoran Desert
Publication
J. Agric. Food Chem. 1996, 44, 3130−3132
Author
Vázquez-Moreno L. & Robles-Burgueňo M.R.
Publisher
 
Year
1996
ISBN
 
Description
 
].

The seeds have been used to make a beverage similar to hot chocolate[
1309
Title
The Leguminosae; A Source Book of Characteristics, Uses and Nodulation
Publication
 
Author
Allen O.N.; Allen E.K.
Publisher
University of Wisconsin
Year
1981
ISBN
0-333-32221-5
Description
An amazing and comprehensive work, giving a brief guide to the many genera of the family Fabaceae and also the principle uses of the genus.
].

The fleshy young pods are eaten[
1309
Title
The Leguminosae; A Source Book of Characteristics, Uses and Nodulation
Publication
 
Author
Allen O.N.; Allen E.K.
Publisher
University of Wisconsin
Year
1981
ISBN
0-333-32221-5
Description
An amazing and comprehensive work, giving a brief guide to the many genera of the family Fabaceae and also the principle uses of the genus.
]. The flavour is not bitter, even when eaten raw, though it can be somewhat astringent[
1542
Title
Olneya Beans. A Native Food Product of the Arizona Desert, Worthy of Domestication
Publication
The Journal of Heredity Vol 10, No 1, January 1919
Author
Cook O.F.
Publisher
 
Year
1919
ISBN
 
Description
A detailed study of Olneya tesota and its possibility as a cultivated food crop
].

Flowers[
1309
Title
The Leguminosae; A Source Book of Characteristics, Uses and Nodulation
Publication
 
Author
Allen O.N.; Allen E.K.
Publisher
University of Wisconsin
Year
1981
ISBN
0-333-32221-5
Description
An amazing and comprehensive work, giving a brief guide to the many genera of the family Fabaceae and also the principle uses of the genus.
].

Medicinal

None known

Agroforestry Uses:

This species has a somewhat dense canopy and a very deep taproot - it often does not form any lateral roots for up to 2 metres. When growing in its desert habitat, this makes it an excellent companion tree in a mixed planting - its deep roots bring up nutrients from deep down to enrich the topsoil when it drops its leaves, whilst it provides little root competition for other plants growing close to it[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].
Because of its preference for warmer sites, this species has been used as an indicator plant in choosing locations for citrus plantations[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].

Other Uses

The heartwood is a rich brown and somewhat variegated; the thin layer of sapwood is yellowish white. The texture is medium coarse, grain is irregular, lustre is good, there is no distictive taste or odour when dry. The wood is very hard and strong - it is said to be as hard as ebony and can blunt a saw. The wood is also very heavy, sinking in water, and is durable, however it is also rather brittle[
1309
Title
The Leguminosae; A Source Book of Characteristics, Uses and Nodulation
Publication
 
Author
Allen O.N.; Allen E.K.
Publisher
University of Wisconsin
Year
1981
ISBN
0-333-32221-5
Description
An amazing and comprehensive work, giving a brief guide to the many genera of the family Fabaceae and also the principle uses of the genus.
]. It is very difficult to work with hand tools, machine tools need to be kept sharp, it finishes smoothly and takes an excellent polish. Because the wood is not usually available in quantity, and even then usually only in small pieces, it is little used apart from making small objects such as gift items, pens and carvings[
161
Title
Food Plants of the N. American Indians. Publication no. 237.
Publication
 
Author
Yanovsky. E.
Publisher
U.S. Depf of Agriculture.
Year
 
ISBN
-
Description
A comprehensive but very terse guide. Not for the casual reader.
,
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
,
316
Title
Tropical Timbers of the World. Ag. Handbook No. 607.
Publication
 
Author
Chudnoff. Martin.
Publisher
USDA Forest Service. Wisconsin.
Year
1984
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details on the properties of the wood of almost 400 species of trees from the Tropics.
,
1309
Title
The Leguminosae; A Source Book of Characteristics, Uses and Nodulation
Publication
 
Author
Allen O.N.; Allen E.K.
Publisher
University of Wisconsin
Year
1981
ISBN
0-333-32221-5
Description
An amazing and comprehensive work, giving a brief guide to the many genera of the family Fabaceae and also the principle uses of the genus.
].
The wood makes a good fuel and an excellent charcoal[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
,
1309
Title
The Leguminosae; A Source Book of Characteristics, Uses and Nodulation
Publication
 
Author
Allen O.N.; Allen E.K.
Publisher
University of Wisconsin
Year
1981
ISBN
0-333-32221-5
Description
An amazing and comprehensive work, giving a brief guide to the many genera of the family Fabaceae and also the principle uses of the genus.
].

Propagation

Seed - it has a hard seedcoat and may benefit from scarification before sowing in order to speed up and improve germination. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 - 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen - if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing. The optimum temperature for germination appears to be 25 - 30. Fresh seeds often have 80 - 90% germination rate with emergence usually occurring in 4 - 12 days.
Young seedlings quickly form a taproot and become very difficult to transplant. It is best, where possible, to sow the seed in situ, and protect carefully from predators such as mice and rabbits. If sown in containers, then the seedlings should be transplanted to individual, deep containers as soon as they are large enough to handle, and be planted out into their permanent positions as soon as there is any sign of the taproot reaching the bottom of the container[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].
Cite as: Temperate Plants Database, Ken Fern. temperate.theferns.info. 2018-12-11. <temperate.theferns.info/plant/Olneya+tesota>

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