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Thoughts on nitrogen fixing trees for the desert  RSS feed

 
Peter VanDerWal
Posts: 41
Location: Southern Arizona
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I'm trying to figure out what the best course of action for nitrogen fixing in my budding food forest.  I've tried clover, but that doesn't survive here without supplemental watering which I'm trying to avoid as much as possible.  I've recently been looking into nitrogen fixing trees/bushes.  I know a lot of folks recommend using local nitrogen fixers, however the only local tree here is Mesquite, which doesn't play well with other plants.  I'd considered black locust and/or Russian Olive, but I see that a lot of people have had bad experiences with them being invasive/spreading.

Currently I'm thinking of Acacia trees, specifically Acacia seyal (excellent nitrogen fixer) and Acacia senegal which can produce gum arabic.  Seyal also produces something similar to gum arabic which can be used for inks, paints, etc.  Both can also produce fodder for livestock and to some extent people.  However, they might not survive the occasional sub-freezing temps here.

Any thoughts, or suggested alternatives?

FWIW Where I live we get about 16 inches of rain per year, with most of that falling between July and September. Temperatures here are mild (for Arizona), rarely getting over 100 degrees F and rarely falling below 20F during the winter.  Average highs during the summer are around 90F, and during the winter the average lows are just above freezing, typically warming up into the 50s during the day.
 
Cody DeBaun
Posts: 62
Location: Denton, TX United States Zone 8a
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Howdy Peter! A quick USDA PLANTS database search for trees in the family Fabaceae that grow in Arizona returned this list:
                    
Albizia julibrissin
Caesalpinia gilliesii
Caesalpinia mexicana
Caesalpinia pulcherrima
Ceratonia siliqua
Cercis orbiculata
Erythrina flabelliformis
Eysenhardtia orthocarpa
Gleditsia triacanthos
Leucaena leucocephala
Leucaena leucocephala ssp. glabrata
Lysiloma watsonii
Mimosa aculeaticarpa
Mimosa aculeaticarpa var. biuncifera
Olneya tesota
Paraserianthes lophantha
Parkinsonia aculeata
Parkinsonia florida
Parkinsonia microphylla
Prosopis farcta
Prosopis glandulosa
Prosopis glandulosa var. torreyana
Prosopis pubescens
Prosopis velutina
Psorothamnus spinosus
Robinia neomexicana
Robinia neomexicana var. neomexicana
Robinia neomexicana var. rusbyi
Robinia pseudoacacia
Senna hirsuta
Senna pendula
Senna pendula var. glabrata

Not sure about everything on the list, but the Leucaenas, Mimosas, Mesquites and Locusts should all definitely fix nitrogen, particularly if they're inoculated.
 
Jason Durrie
Posts: 3
Location: Colorado Frontrange
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Here's a paper on trees for New Mexico that might be helpful:
http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h/H426.pdf
 
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