Mesquite trees, which belong to the genus Prosopis, are thorny, large shrubs or small trees that thrive in dry, warm climates. There are more than 40 species of mesquite with Honey Mesquite and Velvet Mesquite being the most common species growing in the United States. Mesquite is cultivated to be used as hardwood charcoal, animal habitat and production of ethanol. Due to their thorny and thicket-like growth form, mesquite is considered to be an invasive species in many regions.
Mesquite seeds, like many tree seeds, do not require sunlight to germinate. When sown in the wild the seed pods do not crack open when ripped and nestle down in the soil for a period of up to 10 years until the moisture and soil conditions are good enough to break the seed pod and trigger germination. Most germination occurs in spring and fall when water is most plentiful. Seeds are often ingested by animals and then redeposited to the land via their waste, which actually speeds their germination.
Mesquite seedlings need daily sunlight for proper development however they may not appear that they are greatly benefiting from it. The roots are the first to receive the plant's resources and develop before the top foliage. A tree that may be a four year old seedling may be just a few inches tall. When started indoors from seed, mesquite should be grown in a southern-facing windowsill.
Mature Mesquite Trees
Mature mesquite trees grow, flower and fruit most vigorously when exposed to direct sunlight during all day-light hours, every day. Shade or partial shade will not kill the tree but will slow or limit the propagation activity.