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Scientific: Chilopsis linearis
Common: desert willow, desert catalpa
Family: Bignoniaceae
Origin: Occurs from northern Chicuahua in Mexico and west Texas and Oklahoma (has escaped cultivation) to southern Nevada and southwest Utah, Arizona, southern California, and northern Baja California in arid land washes from the low desert to grasslands. Subspecies linearis var. linearis occurs primarily east of the Rio Grande River in eastern New Mexico and western Texas, while subspecies arcuata occurs primarily west of the Rio Grande River into California.

Pronounciation: Chill-OP-sis lin-ee-AIR-is

Hardiness zones
11-13, 18-21
USDA 5-11

Landscape Use: Background screen, summer accent tree, multiple or single trunk residential tree, desert park tree. In arid-zone, xeric, native, or desert landscape designs, the use of desert willow suggests the nearby presence of water.

Form & Character: Desert willow has a long deciduous habit, often up to 6 months (November to April). It is an open and airy small tree that is mostly multiple trunk, arid, colorful during the summer, but "sticks and seeds" during the winter. A real "Jekyll and Hyde" type of native landscape plant.

Growth Habit: Deciduous, woody, broadleaf perennial large shrub to small tree, brittle wood, vigorously upright to weeping to 15- to 35-feet tall (depending on water availability) with equal to greater spread, multi-trunk.

Foliage/Texture: Pale to bright green foliage, leaves alternate, mostly linear, 2- to 4-inches long, mostly glabrous, occassionally falcate, drops leaves in early fall, bark shaggy, no fall color; medium fine texture.

Flowers & Fruits: Typically trumpet shaped flowers with white corolla and yellow fused anthers, mottled inside, arranged in terminal clusters, petal colors ranging from white to pink to deep lavender, light fragrance, pollinated by carpenter bees; fruits are long, linear, ugly and messy in summer, several 1/3- to 1/2-inch long, light brown, oval seeds are encased within a two-celled, very indehiscent capsule. Seeds have a fringe of soft white hairs at each end which aid in wind dispersal.

Seasonal Color: Light to deep purple/violet from late spring to early fall.

Temperature: Tolerant

Light: Full sun

Soil: Tolerant

Watering: Needs some supplemental summer water for best (dense foliar cover) performance.

Pruning: Selective pruning of branches can improve the appearance of this otherwise desert willow ends up looking like a 'rangy-looking' small tree.

Propagation: Seed

Disease and Pests: Aphids during spring an Xylella fastidosa (Pearce's disease), a leaf scorch bacteria that normally infects grapes.

Additional comments: Attracts birds, and looks unsightly during winter. Hummingbirds are attracted to the flowers during the summer. There are many named cultivars that exist locally that are have unique flower and form characteristics.

Some local Phoenix cultivars of desert willow include:

A horticultural wonder: An unusual intergeneric hybrid between Chilopsis linearis and Catalpa bignoniodes, designated X Chitalpa tashkentensis (common name chitalpa) was bred in Uzbekistan in 1964 and introduced to the United States by Robert Hebb of the New York Botanic Garden in 1977.