Gray thorn (Ziziphus obtusifolia) - 5 gallon
NATIVE RANGE: Grows on dry plains, mesas, and slopes between 1000 and 5000 feet; Arizona, Nevada, California, Sonora, and Baja California WILDLIFE VALUE: Zigzagging thorny branches provide shelter and places to nest; flowers attract masses...
NATIVE RANGE: Grows on dry plains, mesas, and slopes between 1000 and 5000 feet; Arizona, Nevada, California, Sonora, and Baja California
WILDLIFE VALUE: Zigzagging thorny branches provide shelter and places to nest; flowers attract masses of pollinators; fruits a favorite food for birds and small mammals
For me, the primary value of gray thorn in the landscape is for attracting wildlife, but it can also function as an ideal security or barrier plant. This rigidly branched, formidable shrub has green stems covered with a grayish wax-like coating that usually end in sizable thorns. The dense spiny habit makes it nearly impenetrable and an ideal location for safe nesting and sheltering. Bloom time may vary but the specimen at the Nature Shop garden seems to flower mainly in March and April. The inconspicuous yellow-green flowers draw swarms of pollinators: butterflies, bees, wasps, flies, nearly invisible gnats, tarantula hawks, and critters I’ve never seen the likes of before. Flowers are followed by tasty blueberry-like fruits devoured by small mammals and many birds. Growth is slow to moderate and plant in full sun and well-drained soil. It’s best to steer clear of high traffic areas to avoid impaling any passersby. And be sure to give gray thorn a wide berth for it grows very large (6' high and 8' wide)—sometimes difficult to visualize when you see it in a one-gallon nursery pot. Plants are hardy to 15 degrees so no worries about frost damage, and they are extremely drought tolerant—once established they can survive exclusively on rainfall, though their small leaves may drop during dry periods. - Lynn Hassler