Smoketree is an odd name for a tree, but the tree itself is quite common in Lake Havasu City. And look around — it’s in full bloom.
The desert smoketree grows anywhere from 15 feet to 30 feet tall. It is hardy and thrives in limestone clay soils, explaining how it survives in Lake Havasu City’s harsh desert climate.
Another name for the tree used in ancient Roman times was “Jupiter’s beard,” because of its resemblance to that of a cloud, and Jupiter being the Roman god of sky and thunder.
The name used today is similar; it comes from the unique texture when the tree’s flowers grow from its thin branches. The flowers seem to stand on thin hairs on the tree’s branches, almost mimicking the sight of smoke floating in the air. The flowers then detach from the branches during high winds, allowing the plant to pollinate others or itself. Depending on the species and the time of year, a smoketree’s flowers can range in color from dark purple to bright yellow.
The blooming of the smoketree is a something to see, because the plants are so inconspicuous throughout the year. Untrimmed, they can look like a salt cedar to the untrained eye, but the blooming of its flowers demonstrates its difference to other invasive plants.
Star Nursery general manager Jose Hermosillo believes people like the smoketrees because of the color they can bring to an otherwise brown-and-beige environment.
“[Smoketrees] are very colorful, even among their own breed. People like the color variety, and not just for the visual difference. Flowers and leaves changing color are what indicates that the season is changing, and the smoketree is one of the few options for seeing this in harsher climates.”