Form: A single or multi-trunked tree.
Leaf retention: Deciduous.
Growth rate: Moderate.
Mature Size: 30-40' high. With age, its width may considerably exceed its height.
Flowers: Yellow to cream colored, bottlebrush shaped, often profusely clustered,
Fruit: A seed pod, light tan, cylindrical, straight to slightly curved, constricted
around the seeds. The pods and seeds are edible, often ground into a flour.
Leaves: Green, oval, compound leaflets, covered with fine hairs which give it the
name "velvet" mesquite. This tree provides moderate to dense shade.
Stems: 1-2" long straight spines. Young stems are smooth, green and
photosynthesizing. Older branches have brown bark that roughens with age.
Roots: Nitrogen-fixing*, with a deep taproot, aggressive. These trees often sucker
from their roots, but this behavior diminishes with age.
Wildlife: The flowers attract bees. The seed pods are eaten by birds and mammals,
Toxic / Danger: Spines.
Origin: California through New Mexico and Mexico.
Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 7b-10.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Sun: Full sun.
Water after becoming established: No care is needed after the first year. Water
at the drip line no more than once every two months in a severe drought if desired.
Soil: Well drained, dry, low in organic content, pH 6.6-8.5 (neutral to alkaline).
*Do not use a nitrogen fertilizer.
First Year Care: This tree may need staking the first year. It will need to be
watered deeply every week at the drip line to establish a strong root system. Drip
irrigation is recommended instead.
Prune: This tree can profusely grow new stems, and sucker from its roots, after
pruning, so especially winter pruning, and possibly any pruning, should be avoided.
If cut to the ground, it will grow new trunks from its roots. Prune the lowest branches
only in the summer, if at all. Do not thin branches by more than 20% to avoid stem sunburn
which encourages insect pests. If it grows into a large shrub, it might be best to leave it
Propagation: Scarified seed.
Pests: Mistletoe is possible if the plant is weakened by a prolonged drought.
Uses: Ornamental, xeric garden, edible seedpods.
This plant is a member of the Legume family (Fabaceae). While it is not overly
attractive, it is a survivor in very hot, dry environments and needs no care after the
first year in the ground.
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Latest update: February, 2019.