Erythrostemon palmeri

Botanical Name

Erythrostemon palmeri (S. Watson) E. Gagnon & G. P. Lewis

Common Name(s)

  • piojito (Spanish)
  • palo piojo (Spanish)

Legume Clades

Native Geographic Range

  • Southwestern North America

IUCN Status

Growth Form

small tree

Cultivation Status in AZ

Rarely cultivated


Drought-deciduous shrubs or small trees to 26 ft (8 m) high. The bark is smooth and gray, with conspicuous lenticels. Leaves have 3--5 pairs of pinnae with a terminal pinna, with 1--4 pairs of leaflets per pinna. The flowers are small and yellow with red markings near the center. These are produced in few-flowered, open clusters primarily in spring and early summer.


Native to parts of Sonora and Sinaloa, Mexico, in the Sonoran Desert, thornscrub, and tropical dry forest where the plants are commonly found on slopes and in valleys.


The wood has been used by indigenous peoples for harpoon shafts, bows, and other articles. The red sap has been used for painting. The common name palo piojo refers to the lenticels on the bark (piojo= lice).


Palo piojo has been occasionally grown in Arizona. It can be trained into a small tree suitable for patios. The foliage provides filtered light for other plants and the small flowers are scattered through the canopy and are produced over several months. Established plants require infrequent deep irrigation. This species is hardy to about 21° F (-6° C). Litter and maintenance are minimal.