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Q&AZ: How Can Palm Trees And Pine Trees Both Grow In Arizona's Climate?

By Nicholas Gerbis
Published: Monday, April 22, 2019 - 5:05am
Updated: Wednesday, June 10, 2020 - 11:52am

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Pine trees in an Arizona canyon
Claire Caulfield/KJZZ
Pine trees in an Arizona canyon.

Arizona is home to a variety of ecosystems and a wide array of plant life. One listener wanted to know how palms and pine trees — plants from seemingly opposite environments — could both grow in the state.

"Where there's a water source, there's a way." It might as well be the motto of the West. But irrigation provides only part of the answer to this question,

"Both genera have really wide distribution ranges and adaptations to many different climates," said Robin Martin of Arizona State University's School of Geographical Sciences & Urban Planning.

Waxy needles and fibrous fronds resist water loss and protect against harsh elements and high sun exposure.

By investing resources into these tough tissues, both palms and pines also get a lot of mileage out of their nutrients, which lets them grow in weak soils.

Science Q&AZ