The honey mesquite tree, also known by its botanical name, prosopis glandulosa, is native to the southwestern United States. The tree is a fixture in the region's landscape and is so prolific it is now considered a problem weed in some areas. In the past, wildfires would keep the honey mesquite in check. With the advent of fire control the plant now grows without restraint.
Honey mesquite leaves are compound, bearing 12 to 20 pairs of flat, oblong, green leaflets, each less than 2 inches long, on either side of a long leaf stem. The flowers are yellow and not particularly showy. The tree blooms in the spring and summer. The fruit forms as a long, flat yellowish brown pod holding many bean-like seeds that are flattened, hard and dark brown. The bark is relatively rough and gray in color. The branches often have long, sharp thorns.
Mesquite can be grown in hardiness zones 6 through 9. The tree tends to grow at a medium rate adding less than 2 feet of new growth per year. The tree tends to grow in dense thickets. The root system is extensive and can spread toward sources of moisture.
The plant grows to about 35 feet high and just as wide. Its shape is roughly rounded and spreading with an open density and fine texture. When young, the tree can look a bit straggly and irregularly shaped, while more mature trees tend to have more form. The branched of the plant tend to be crooked and droop toward the ground.
Honey mesquite like hot, arid areas and growing in full sun. The plant will tolerate a range of soil conditions, from acid to alkaline, in clay, loam or sand and are very salt tolerant. Young plants transplant easily, but need regular irrigation until well established.
This tree is sometimes grown as a specimen plant in the landscape. The mesquite wood is often used as fuel or as charcoal for cooking. Native Americans of the southwestern United States sometimes gather the seeds as a food source. As the name of the tree implies, honey mesquite blossoms are very fragrant and an excellent source of nectar and pollen for honey bees.
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