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Velvet Mesquite

Prosopis velutina

Velvet Mesquite, Prosopis velutina, photo © by Michael Plagens

Photographed along Mesquite Wash, Maricopa Co., Arizona. April 2008.

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TREE: Usually a single-trunked tree, but sometimes grows as a large shrub particularily when cut or fire damaged. Bark of older branches and trunk is dark gray, with fissures. Where reliable water supply is present velvet mesquite can grow to large proportions with a very broad crown.

LEAVES: Twice-compound leaves with usu. two or four sub-rachises each with numerous small leaflets. Young leaves set with fine pubescence. Leaves, as in many legumes, fold up at night.

RANGE: Normally mesquite is most abundant along the drier margins of riparian corridors where the water table is some meters below the surface. Where sand a gravel bars are piled high between channels mesquite trees will also flourish within sycamore woodlands. Generally scarce above 1800 meters elevation.

FRUIT: Elongate beans slightly constricted between each bean-seed. Very sweet to taste when ripe - i.e. reddish-yellow in color. Later changing to yellow-brown.

FLOWERS: Spikes of numerous, small yellow-cream flowers. The petals are nearly rudimentary - instead flower color is the result of long, colored stamens.

ARMED. Generally has sturdy, straight thorns, two per node. There is considerable variation in the length of thorns. Even within the same plant some branches, particularily those in direct, hot, sunshine, have much longer, sharper thorns.
Read more on Sonoran Desert Naturalist

Fabaceae -- Bean Family

More Information:

Arizona Naturalist
Sycamore Canyons
The Flora of Arizona's Sycamore Canyons


Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2010