The Arizona Mesquite has always been my first tell-tell sign for planting in the garden; patience and waiting for the mesquite tree to bud and blossom before planting is best. The mesquite is the desert dweller's wisdom bringer of actual knowledge, also known as the frost-free barometer; usually, the mesquite will let us know in late spring or early summer. I'll wait for your wisdom, Dear mesquite; I sit in quiet anticipation until you give the sign. The way is clear.
The most common species of the native mesquite trees growing in Arizona are:
(1) Prosopis glandulosa – commonly known as the honey mesquite or Texas mesquite
(2) Prosopis velutina – commonly known as the velvet mesquite, being the largest of these mesquite species
(3) Prosopis pubescens – commonly known as the screwbean mesquite
The mesquite tree is a hardy, drought-tolerant, and prolific desert tree of the legume family Leguminosae. The mesquite tree character ensures its survival utilizing the foliage, the bean pods, the deep taproot (the taproot girth is commonly thick, with a depth that exceeds the height of the tree) combined with the expansive lateral root system (typically two to three times breadth the canopy) and the symbiotic friendship with root bacteria offering a nitrogen-rich soil creating the perfect environment for new seedlings.
The mesquite tree appearance would be more often that of a large bush or small tree, growing anywhere between 20ft to as much as 50ft in height; the bark is a rough and gray brownish color, with frequently multiple trunks that form twisted, gnarled joints and thorny meandering branches. The mesquite tree is deciduous; the green summer canopy offers shelter for desert wildlife like jackrabbits, javelina, ground squirrels, coyotes, and wild turkey from the heat while letting the sunshine in during our cooler season. The mesquite tree has green, twice-pinnate leaflets 3 to 6 inches long with a delicate appearance; the flowers are elongated yellow spikes on which birds like to feed, and bees love to partake of the sweet nectar.
The mesquite tree provides us with many offerings. The bean pods are sweet and nutritious: Protein-rich, containing fiber, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, and the amino acid lysine. The flowering of the mesquite tree is a nectar source for mesquite honey. The wood burns slowly, clean, and hot; you can use the mesquite wood chips in the grill to flavor food. The mesquite beans feed our desert-dwelling wildlife; the bean pods comprise approximately 80% of the coyotes' diet.
The Indians and earlier settlers used the mesquite tree as medicine for ailments like colic, flesh wounds, headaches, diarrhea, dysentery, sore throat, and a water infusion of the leaves aid for ailing eyes. You can grind the bean pods into a rich, sweet, and caramel-tasting power that can serve as flour for baking or as a neutral sweetener or flavoring in smoothies with cocoa and maca.
People have confused the mesquite tree with Acacia greggii – family Fabaceae; common names are cat claw, wait a minute tree, paradise flower, wait a bit tree, and the cat claw mesquite. Cat claw is also a drought-tolerant deciduous large bush or small tree of the desert territory. My girlfriends and I had named it "pussy claw" due to our child-like whimpering when snagged on a hike. Ouch, wait a minute, caught on the pussy claw.
You'll hear native Arizonan's comment on how messy the mesquite tree is, which is undoubtedly true. I have a soft spot for the "it's complicated" mesquite, bees humming atop the canopy in harmony when the fuzzy flowers blossom, and there is nothing like mesquite honey. The mesquite offers too many gifts, so I'll deal with her chaotic nature and say thank you as I sweep. Lower altitudes will always bud first, I live in Sedona, and if I go to the Red Rock Loop Road, which is lower in altitude, the mesquite may start to bud a week earlier than West Sedona.
CLICK ↓↓↓ FOR recommended underlined Mesquite Products. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Rango Honey, 100% Pure, Raw and Unfiltered Sonoran Desert Mesquite; 24oz. Glass Jar; From hive to home
Enjoy! © Robin Michaels 2023 revised