How much do you know about mesquite trees? Mesquite can be either a tree, growing to heights of 30 to 50 feet with deep soil and good irrigation, or a shrub of only three feet in shallow soil. It’s the most common tree/shrub in the desert southwest. They are drought tolerant and are able to survive in extreme conditions. What you might not realize, though, is that there are over 40 species of mesquite trees globally.
In the American Southwest, there are only a few varieties of mesquite. These include the velvet mesquite, honey mesquite, screwbean mesquite, and the Chilean mesquite. These trees are very useful, producing edible pods packed with nutrition and bark that is good for barbecuing. Their branches often spread as wide as the tree is tall, providing dappled shade and filtered light. Let’s take a closer look at these different types of trees.
- Velvet mesquite is also known as native mesquite or Arizona mesquite. This tree grows to 30 to 50 feet with a slow to moderate growth rate. It’s found in southern Arizona, and has dark brown, rough, shaggy bark and gray-green leaves. Its flowers are cream-colored or pale yellow, and it has small thorns, up to an inch long. Velvet mesquite trees are covered in tiny hairs when they’re young, and that’s how they got the name “velvet.” Velvet mesquite wood has a unique grain and is popular for furniture making.
- Honey mesquite is also called Texas mesquite. These trees can range from 15 to 40 feet in height and are medium to fast growing. They grow in the Southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico and have bark that’s tan and smooth when young but becomes dark and rough over time. Honey mesquite has white or pale yellow flowers in spring and summer, reddish thorns, and long, dropping branches. This kind of tree is called honey mesquite because it attracts pollinators.
- Screwbean mesquite is also known as tornillo mesquite. This type of tree grows very slowly to a height of about 25 feet. Found in the Sonoran Desert, the Chihuahuan Desert, Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico, screwbean mesquite has leaves that are smaller than other mesquites, and flowers that are bright yellow or white. Its bark is shaggy and flaky, and it has pairs of thorns that are ¾ to one inch long. It’s called the screwbean mesquite because its seedpods look like a spring or screw.
- Chilean mesquite is popular because it is thornless. Its dark, textured trunk makes a lovely contrast with its bright green, fern-like foliage. Native to South America, this tree is heat-loving and drought-tolerant, making it an excellent water-wise option for landscaping. It’s quick growing and produces stunning yellow flowers in spring and showy tan pods in summer and fall.
When you’re looking for expert advice about trees, head to Moon Valley Nurseries. Moon Valley Nurseries started as a small neighborhood nursery garden center, and now has locations all across the West. We deliver and plant anything in our massive inventory, and because we grow our plants ourselves, we can give our customers the lowest prices in town, guaranteed. Whether you need ground cover, a tree or two, or an entire landscape, our friendly staff members will go the extra mile to make you happy. Contact us through our website, call us at (602) 388-1529, or stop by to check out all we have to offer, from the best trees and plants to professional crews and planters to certified designers ready to make your yard the best in the neighbourhood.