Palo Verde branches against a blue Arizona sky

Life Lessons from the Palo Verde

It’s already been almost a month since our trip to Arizona, and I’m still writing about it! Today’s topic is the “green sticks” we encountered on our last night in the desert.

Palo Verde tree in the desert of Arizona

This tree is super cool for a few reasons. It’s called Palo Verde, from the Spanish for “green stick,” because its trunk and branches are green.

It’s also the state tree of Arizona.

But wait, that’s just the beginning!

Photosynthesis

Now don’t you go rolling your eyes at me, dear Reader. I know, I know, of course it uses its leaves to make food.

But this tree stands out from the crowd because it also makes food using its bark!!!

The Palo Verde will drop its leaves and even a few branches during dry seasons or times of drought (most of the year, that is) to save water resources. That’s where the green bark comes in, using sunlight to produce life-sustaining food year-round.

Green trunk and branches of palo verde tree

I’d never heard of such a thing before!

Closeup of palo verde twigs without leaves
See, no leaves!

In our part of the world, deciduous trees have almost finished dropping their leaves to prepare for the cold winter months ahead. They’ve stopped photosynthesizing until spring, conserving resources until temperatures warm again.

In both instances, the trees are responding to their environments and protecting themselves from weather extremes. The Palo Verde uses its bark to make food during dry times, while trees in the north use their bark to protect the living tissue beneath.

Both have bark, but both are responding to different conditions which require different reactions.

Life Lesson #1: Use Resources Wisely

God has made each one of us a manager of resources. Those resources could be in the arenas of time, money, talents, possessions, relationships, etc.

We are all stewards, but we don’t all have the same amounts of the same areas to manage, and we aren’t all in the same season of life. For one it may be time to conserve reserves with frugality, while for another it might be a season of sowing generously.

No matter our season, it’s easy to forget that we aren’t the owners, we’re only the managers! One day we will have to explain how and why we used the resources in our hands.

Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.

Hebrews 14:12 NLT

It’s also easy to let life simply pass us by like currents in a river, forgetting to live intentionally in the days we’ve been given.

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.

Ephesians 5:15-17

Think on it:

What season of life are you in?

What resources has God given you to manage?

How can you best use those resources to point the eyes of the world toward him?

Take time today to ask God for his input on how to best use the resources he has entrusted you with.

Life Lesson #2: Don’t Compare

Let’s use our local oak trees as an example for this one. If I took one down to the desert in Arizona, the lack of water would be a major problem. Oaks only make food with their leaves, and the process requires water to move through the trunk and branches and out to the leaves. No water, no food. Leaves die, tree dies, it’s all over.

If I instead brought a Palo Verde up here, the winter cold would be the difficulty. Sure, there would usually be plenty of water throughout the year, but the bark itself was created with a purpose other than protecting the underlying living tissue. Since the Palo Verde can only tolerate temperatures down to about 15˚F, it would freeze and die before winter was over.

We all have time, but how God calls me to use my time will be different from the way he calls you to. We all have possessions, but how we put them to use will differ. Our relationships are shaped by family, culture, and experience, and we can’t assume they will all be alike. We all have talents, but how we use them to worship God will vary.

Think on it:

Have you noticed that you have the same ___________ as someone else, but wondered why they don’t use it the same way you do? Well, take it to God and wonder no more! Each of us is in a process of becoming who we were created to be, and none of us has reached the end yet. Let God do his work in his time.

Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.

Romans 14:4

Life Lesson #3: Protect the Vulnerable

Palo Verde trees act as nurse plants for saguaro cactuses. If you read my post Beware the Cactus!, you might remember that the saguaro is a super slow grower. Palo verdes protect young saguaros from winter cold and hot summer sun. The saguaro may outlast its protector by many, many years.

Think on it:

Who do you know who has just begun their journey of following Jesus?

How can you provide needed shade or warmth as they grow stronger in their faith, knowing that they may outlive or even outgrow you?

Take time today to pray for God’s Spirit to protect and provide for their spiritual growth. Be ready for him to show you how you can be involved in the process.


I hope this post has been an encouragement to you to consider what resources you have, how God wants you to use them, and how you can be a blessing to others.

Visit my Etsy shop, Prints by Lauri, for a few printables I’ve created to help you take time to “Think on it“! These assist with setting priorities, taking time in Scripture, and letting God speak through his creation.

2 thoughts on “Life Lessons from the Palo Verde”

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