Mesquite Trees: Types, Leaves, Flowers, Bark – Identification Guide (With Pictures)

Mesquite trees feature feathery foliage, white or yellow flowers, and seed pods containing peas. They are short, prickly shrub-like trees. In Texas, Arizona, and other southern states in the United States, mesquite trees often grow in shrublands. Honey mesquite trees (Prosopis glandulosa), velvet mesquite trees (Prosopis velutina), and screwbean mesquite trees (Prosopis pubescens) are the three most common kinds of mesquite trees.

Mesquite trees can be a problem for property owners in a number of states, including Texas and California. The roots of the tough shrubby trees stretch for up to 200 feet (60 meters). Mesquite tree roots absorb water, preventing other plants from growing near them in the hot southern states. They are also known as “trash trees” or “devil trees.” Mesquite, on the other hand, is a nitrogen fixer that boosts the amount of nitrogen in the soil and may increase its productivity.

Identifying mesquite trees is the subject of this article. You may identify varied mesquite tree species by studying photographs of mesquite trees, descriptions of their leaves, flowers, and bark.

Mesquite Tree Facts

The genus Prosopis and the pea family Fabaceae are named after Mesquite, which is a large deciduous shrub or small tree. Mesquite bushes and trees may grow to be 50 feet (15 meters) tall. Texas, California, and Northern Mexico are home to around seven mesquite species.

Mesquite trees are drought tolerant and can live in low light because of their extensive, spreading roots. In deserts, grasslands, along streams, and on hillsides, you can find mesquite trees growing. Plants are invasive in some regions because of their fast development and extensive root system.

Mesquite trees grow as low, multi-branched bushes in shallow soil, only reaching 3 feet (1 meter) in height.  This trees grow to between 30 and 50 feet (9 and 15 meters) tall in deep soil, having a vase or rounded shape. The spreading canopy may stretch up to 40 feet (12 meters) across.

In full sun and well-draining soil, mesquite trees grow best in USDA zones 7 through 11. Mesquite is a Spanish word that comes from the Aztecan term mizquitl. The trees are referred to as mesquite trees in Mexico.

Mesquite Tree Leaves

Mesquite trees have complicated pinnate leaves. The compound pinnate mesquite leaves (petioles) have 20 to 50 little oblong leaflets distributed along a stem. The green or grayish-green color of mesquite tree leaves contrasts with the trees’ sparse growth.

The length of mesquite leaves varies between 8 and 10 inches (20 and 25 cm). Bipinnate compound leaves are found in the most commonly occurring mesquite trees in Texas: honey mesquitear and velvet mesquitear. As the weather gets chilly, mesquite trees shed their leaves.

The leaves on mesquite trees, on the other hand, stay green until new leaves develop in the spring when weather is relatively mild. The tree only sheds its aged leaves when young feathery leaves develop.

Mesquite Tree Thorns

Prosopis juliflora mesquite thorns are illustrated here. Thorny mesquite tree spikes can grow to be 3 inches (7.5 cm) long. If you come into contact with the mesquite spines, they can cause a lot of pain. Some individuals are allergic to mesquite thorns.

Shrubby mesquite plants have thin, pointed thorns that make them ideal for use as a defensive hedgerow. Spineless mesquite hybrids exist. Select a cultivar with no spines if you want to grow mesquite trees in your yard. You might also remove the spines from juvenile trees and have them disappear as the tree grows.

Mesquite Tree Bark

Honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) bark has a rough, scaly appearance and is reddish-brown in color. Mesquite bark can be pale brown or nearly black, depending on the species. The bark of young mesquite trees is usually thin and light in color. However, as the tree develops, the bark becomes flecked and darker. Because of the straight thorns, mesquite tree bark has a spikey appearance.

Mesquite Flowers

Smooth mesquite (Prosopis laevigata) catkins have long cylindrical white or yellow spikes. The flowers are 2 to 3 inches long and have a pale color. The blooming of mesquite trees occurs throughout the spring and summer. Trees have a lot of decorative value thanks to their clusters of pale-yellow blossoming spikes.

Mesquite Seed Pods (Mesquite Fruit)

Mesquite fruit develops as unusual, long seed pods with bean-like seeds. The yellowish or reddish-brown pods reach a length of 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm) when mature. Mesquite seeds, which are sweet-coated and ripe in July and August, are appealing to both people and animals.

Screwbean trees produce the most unusual mesquite seed pods. These pods appear to be a tightly coiled spring or screw. Traditional mesquite pods resemble slender runner bean pods, as seen in pictures of mesquite seed pods from other species.

Mesquite Wood

Mesquite tree wood is a dark brown hardwood that is dense and hard. Wood has ornamental value due to the intricate wood grain. Furniture, flooring, fence posts, and paneling are all made of wood because of its hardness and natural beauty. Mesquite wood is utilized in preparing food with smoke to provide it a distinctive taste. It’s ideal for firewood.

How to Identify Mesquite Tree

Feathery complex mesquite leaves are the best way to identify them. The thin leaves have clusters of leaves that sprout sparsely on the branches, giving them a mimosa-like appearance. Mesquite trees have a spiky bark and branches, as well as numerous stems that create a wide, spreading canopy. You can recognize them by these characteristics.

Types of Mesquite Trees

Honey mesquite, velvet mesquite, and screwbean mesquite are the three most common types of mesquite trees. The Southwest United States, Northern Mexico, and South America are home to different types of mesquite trees. Now, let’s examine how to determine if mesquite trees are present.

Honey Mesquite Tree (Prosopis glandulosa)

Long drooping branches, feathery leaves, yellow flowers, long tubular seed pods, and spiny branches characterize the honey mesquite tree (Prosopis glandulosa). The spreading, rounded crown of these trees and the shining foliage that hangs from their branches give them a wide appearance. Honey mesquite bark is reddish-brown in color and has a rough, fissured appearance.

Honey mesquite trees may reach a height of 40 feet (12 meters) and broadness. The bent tree that extends to one side of honey mesquite trees growing in the desert environment is a sign. Texas, Southern California, Arizona, and Northern Mexico are all home to the honey mesquite tree. The Texas honey mesquite is a name given to the tree because it is so widespread in the Lone Star State.

For summer shade, honey mesquite trees are planted as decorative landscape trees. It’s recommended to choose thornless cultivars when planting this mesquite species in your yard. Specimen trees and lawn trees are the best choices for honey mesquite trees. In sunny backyards, the delicate foliage provides dappled shade.

Plant honey mesquite trees in well-drained soil with plenty of sunlight to grow them. The trees grow quickly and are indifferent about the kind of soil. Water is required to develop strong trees with a wide crown. Remove thorns and suckers from young trees by pruning them heavily. With a huge, spreading canopy, this helps to create a single-trunk mesquite tree.

Identifying honey mesquite trees

Honey mesquite tree leaves are bipinnate compound feathery leaves with thorns. Its leaves, which are up to 8 inches (20 cm) long, are a vivid green color. Eight to twenty pairs of oblong leaflets with rounded ends cover each leaf. The rounded crown is formed by fern-like foliage.

On twigs, branches, and the trunk, honey mesquite thorns are a reddish-tan color that grow up to 2″ (5 cm) long.

Honey mesquite blooms are light yellow and hang from prickly limbs in spherical clusters. The immature seed pods are pale-yellow. Early spring is when the mesquite tree produces flower spikes, which lasts until late summer.

When mature, honey mesquite tree seed pods resemble pea pods and are yellowish in color. The pods resemble a string of beads tied to branches and contain ten to twenty seeds.

Velvet Mesquite Tree (Prosopis velutina)

The velvet mesquite tree has fern-like gray-green leaves, pendulous spikes of pale yellowish-green flowers, and dark reddish-brown shaggy bark. It grows from small to medium in size. The spreading vase-shaped crown of the velvet mesquite tree grows to a height of 25 feet (7.5 meters).

Southern Arizona is home to velvet mesquite shrubby trees. Velvet mesquite may be found in arid grasslands or beside streams in damp soil. This mesquite trees are frequently found with multiple stems and a wide spread of growth.

Velvet mesquite trees are suitable for sunny yards. Because of the shrub’s drought tolerance, you seldom need to water them. For removing thorns and creating a nice form, pruning young trees is critical. Porous, sandy soil is the optimum kind of soil for velvet mesquite trees. Because they rarely need any water, velvet mesquite trees are popular in Arizona for growing in xeriscape settings.

Identifying velvet mesquite trees

Velvet mesquite tree leaves Mimosa-like leaves with a fine featheriness. The bipinnate leaves are up to 6 inches (15 cm) long and grayish-green. Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the winter. The leaves may stay on the tree until spring in warm Texas and Arizona winters. The fine hairs that give leaves a velvety feel give Velvet mesquite trees their name.

Velvet mesquite flowers Catkins of pale-yellow blooms emerge in late spring. The spiky branches of the cylindrical spikes form dense clusters. In the summer, the fragrant blossoms attracts bees and pollinators.

Velvet mesquite thorns They’re solid and have a pointed end. The young branches of the yellow mesquite thorn reach 1″ (2.5 cm) in length. Pruning off the spines from immature trees can make a mesquite tree thornless.

Velvet mesquite seed pods The pods are long and brilliant green in color. Mesquite pods grow to be 3 to 9 inches (7.5 to 22 cm) long.

Screwbean Mesquite Tree (Prosopis pubescens)

The screwbean mesquite tree is a big multi-stemmed shrub or small tree with tiny yellowish blooms, tiny pinnate leaves, and flaky brown bark that readily peels. It is a big, multi-stemmed shrub or small tree. The open, spreading vase-shaped crown of screwbean mesquite trees grows up to 23 feet (7 meters) tall.

Southern Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico are home to the screwbean mesquite tree. Screwbeans may be found growing beside streams or in damp, marshy soil in deserts.

This Prospopis species, sometimes known as the screwpod mesquite or Tornillo, is unique among mesquite trees. The odd seed pods, which hang in clusters from the tree and resemble fat pale brown caterpillars, are first noticeable. Screwbean tree leaves and thorns are also smaller than honey mesquite or velvet mesquite.

In a location with excellent drainage and plenty of sunlight, grow screwbean mesquite trees. Regularly prune the screwbean trees to keep them in shape. If you want to grow a single-stem tree, pruning immature trees is useful for removing suckers.

Identifying screwbean mesquite trees

Screwbean mesquite tree leaves are pinnately compound leaves with up to nine pairs of tiny leaflets. They are small blue-green, and come in clusters. The leaves are the smallest of the native mesquite types, measuring roughly 3″ (7.6 cm) long on average.

Straight spines that don’t grow longer than 1.2″ (3 cm) are called screwbean mesquite thorns.

Screwbean mesquite flowers are yellow or white and produce 3″ (7.5 cm) tall conical spikes.

Screwbean mesquite has screwlike seed pods that resemble a rotated screw or spiral tubes. Clusters of coiled mesquite seed pods protrude in all directions from the plant. The unusual screw-like pods are the source of both the English name (screwbean) and the Spanish name (Tornillo).

Chilean Mesquite Tree (Prosopis chilensis)

With light, feathery leaves, twisting branches, and yellowish-green blossoms, the Chilean mesquite tree is a heat-loving, drought-tolerant tree. Mesquite blossoms are followed by lengthy yellowish-brown seed pods that bloom from spring to summer. There are minimal care requirements for this fast-growing tree. Chilean mesquite trees may reach a height of 30 feet (9 meters) and a width of 40 feet (12 meters).

Flowers, leaves, and thorns from Chilean mesquite

White Mesquite Tree (Prosopis alba)

The white mesquite tree has a rounded, spreading crown and immature seed pods and leaves. Mesquite leaves are bipinnately structured, with two or four pipat pairs of paired divisions (pinnae). The white mesquite (Prosopis alba) blooms in the spring with creamy-yellow flower spikes, similar to all mesquite trees.

The edible seed pods, which are 8 inches (20 cm) long after blooming, appear. Because of the huge black seed pods that develop in late summer, the white mesquite tree is also known as the white carob tree (in Spanish Algarrobo tree).

Black Mesquite Tree (Prosopis nigra)

The white mesquite tree is bigger than the black mesquite tree, which originated in South America. This Prosopis tree has a round-topped crown with a broad spread and grows between 13 and 32 feet (4 and 10 meters) tall. The black mesquite tree has thick foliage, similar to Prosopis alba. The tree also produces pea-like seed pods and grows tiny mesquite flowers in small bunches.

Smooth Mesquite Tree (Prosopis laevigata)

In Texas, Arizona, and South America, the smooth mesquite tree is unusual. Long pinnate mesquite leaves with up to 50 leaflets on one petiole make up the mesquite leaves. Long cylindrical pale-yellow blooms and long brownish-tan dangling seed pods characterize smooth mesquite trees. The thorny shrub-like tree may grow up to 3 feet tall depending on the soil. It has a height of 10 feet (1.5 meters).

Mesquite flowers and seed pods look silky smooth.

Creeping Screwbean Mesquite Tree (Prosopis strombulifera)

The creeping mesquite tree has coiled seed pods that are similar to those of screwbean mesquite. This thorny shrub-like tree with waxy compound leaves, white spines, and tube-like flowers producing yellow spherical flower heads is also known as the Argentine screwbean.

Yellow screw-like pods with brown, bean-like seeds develop after the plant has blossomed. Mesquites, which reach around 10 feet (3 meters) in height, thrive in full sun.

Leave a Comment