Prosopis velutina

This mesquite is a magnificent, deciduous, multi-trunk tree with a wide, spreading crown that grows twenty to forty feet tall with a spread of fifteen to twenty-five feet. Mature trees have brownish-black, shaggy bark, and in spring through fall, produce feathery, green foliage that creates filtered shade. In mild winters, the tree may hold some of its foliage, producing year-round shade. This native mesquite can be distinguished from the other species by the short, dense hairs that cover the entire tree, including is seedpods and leaves. This is the trait that has helped to give this plant the common name of velvet mesquite. In late spring through early summer, this species produces cream-colored catkins that are long and hang from the tree. In late summer, dark tan seedpods form. The seedpods are very sweet and were used by Native Americans for food and other resources. Today, these trees still serve as a home to wildlife and to provide shade to understory plants and creatures living in the Southwest desert. The native mesquite likes full sun, reflected heat, and well-draining soils, and is hardy to five degrees Fahrenheit. It is also drought-resistant and survives in nature on natural rainfall. In the landscape, it benefits from deep, monthly soakings to form a solid root system and ensure longevity. Periodically prune this tree to reinforce its structure and form. Watch out for infestations of the mesquite girdler in late summer through early fall. Treat as necessary for control of this insect. Use it as an individual specimen, shade, or desert accent on golf courses, in large landscapes, or in groupings. It is native to washes, valleys, and desert plains throughout central and southern Arizona, southern California, and southern New Mexico at elevations of 1,000 to 4,000 feet. It is also found growing in Mexico along Baja California and into north and central Sonora.

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