Antoine St. Exupery, French author of The Little Prince, notes: "It is futile to plant an acorn in the morning and expect that afternoon to sit in the shade of an oak."
As manager of a tree service company in Arizona for the past few years, the idea of a fast growing tree evokes a slightly negative picture. In considering why, I realize that my impression of the Phoenix metropolitan area has been jaded by the recent buying frenzy of houses and resultant precariousness homeowners and home seekers alike have found themselves in here. I was born and raised in Tempe/Mesa, and my paternal family is native to Arizona for a few generations back. For some evasive reason, learning about the urban sprawl that has characterized this area and personally witnessing it throughout my lifetime often leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
I must admit that if someone were to ask me about which trees grow fastest, I would wonder if their sole intention is to boost their property value quickly. True, an aesthetically landscaped yard that includes large, mature looking trees increases the value of a property. People simply do not stick around in one place very long anymore, and so it is hard to imagine that they devote much effort into the trees in their yard for the benefit of a future buyer. The idea of a 'heritage tree' seems a myth these days.
Property value is, of course, not the only motivation for planting fast growing trees. One of the most wonderful gifts a tree offers us is shade. As Warren Buffet once noted, "Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago." Naturally, in a desert climate of predominant sunshine, we want shade. We want it as quickly as possible.
Regarding growth rate, an article found on the Arbor Day Foundation website states that: "Slow growing species typically live longer than fast growing species." It somehow makes sense that there is some natural compromise there. Several of the trees mentioned in the list below are taken from an article published in the Houston Chronicle. Its author warns: "Many fast-growing trees are trouble. They can be weak-wooded and prone to disease and insects. [...] But there are exceptions, so get all the information you can before planting."
Following are some examples of trees that are known to grow relatively fast. The first few listed are most appropriate to the climate and soil conditions in the Phoenix area:
• Palo verde varieties (genus: Cercidium) - among the faster-growing are the sonoran palo verde, or hybrid palo verdes such as the desert museum or sonoran emerald palo verde.
• Mesquite varieties: the fastest-growing is the Argentine mesquite (Prosopis alba)
• Willow acacia (Acacia salicina)
• Desert willow (Chilopsis linearis)
• Chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia)
• Arizona ash (Fraxinus velutina)
• Mexican sycamore (Platanus mexicana)
• Montezuma cypress (Taxodium mucronatum)
• Drummond red maple (Acer rubrum drummondii)
• Green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)
• Chinese parasol tree (Firmiana simplex)
• Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)
• Monterrey oak (Quercus polymorpha)
• Cherry laurel (Prunus caroliniana)
• Paulownia varieties (including Paulownia tomentosa, Paulownia kawakamii, etc.) - a few of the many common names are: sapphire dragon tree, Chinese empress tree, Japanese pagoda tree, and miracle tree; all are very fast-growing.
Alternatively, a few examples of slow-growing trees that are grown in the Phoenix area are: Chinese pistache, live oak, desert ironwood and mangosteen. There are many others, of course, and all have advantages as well as drawbacks depending on what you have in mind for your yard.
I hope you have found this article on fast growing Arizona trees to be of benefit. If you glean nothing else from this article, I hope that you understand the importance of doing research before buying and planting any new tree(s) in your yard. Know what you want and what you're likely to have success with. I conclude with a Chinese proverb: "The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now."
SOURCES (in order of citation within article):
Arbor Day Foundation: The Right Tree in the Right Place.
Chet Boddy article (from the monthly real estate column, Back to the Land, of the Mendocino Coast Real Estate Magazine)
10 Fast-Growing Trees Worth Considering from the Houston Chronicle