A hardy legume tree, Ironwood’s range closely matches the boundaries of the Sonoran Desert, the only place in the world where it occurs. The only species in the genus Olneya, Ironwood is notable for its slow growth rates and extremely dense wood. Its wood even sinks in water. While scientists consider Ironwood to be the “old growth” tree of the desert, standard tree-ring dating of its wood is difficult. Estimates show some trees to be 800 years old, and it is likely that they live even longer.
Ironwoods bloom profusely in the spring and their blossoms lend a purple hue to the landscape. The pea-type pods mature at a time of year when little else is producing fruit in the Arizona Uplands, leading to a high dependence of wildlife on its seeds. Unlike other desert trees, ironwood rarely sheds all its leaves, so that its canopy provides shade and protection from frost and extreme heat year round.
The other common names for the ironwood tree are Musclewood, Bluebeech, Waterbeech, Lechillo and American hornbeam.
In myths and legends from around the world, trees like Ironwood appear as ladders between worlds, as sources of life and wisdom, and as the physical forms of supernatural beings. With its roots buried deep in the earth, its trunk above ground and its branches stretching toward the sky, a tree serves as a symbolic, living link between this world and those of supernatural beings. It is believed to have iron roots where the spirits of the dead lived in this tree. Some myths tell us that this is an immortal tree where it has the ability to live forever.
Ironwood is an exceptionally powerful magickal wood and has a profoundly positive energy. The overall energy of the wood can be summed up as “the power and strength of goodness.” Its strong connections with the Sun, Jupiter, and luck energy make the wood an ideal tool for any worker of positive magick. The energy about the wood is also very healing, in both physical and spiritual matters. The energies within the wood would also be excellent for divining information from far away as well as close to home.
Being startlingly durable and strong, the name Ironwood itself means “wood of life”. This is perhaps because it is well known as a powerful aid in preserving health and can be a potent component in spells with such an intention. Its sturdy properties are also reflected in the potency it can lend to spells of protection.
This wood represents the end of strife and the beginning of a new, positive, cycle.