top of page

The Mesquite Tree

A true American treasure, the Mesquite Tree grows wild in the southwestern U.S. and Mexico deserts. In healthy environments, it can be a huge multi-trunked tree. However, in wild growing conditions, they often resemble a large shrubs. The mesquite tree is unique because it has an incredibly deep tap root system that makes it highly resistant to drought. The tree can grow to 30 feet and features a softly-rounded canopy with bright green twice-compound leaves. Yellow-green, fragrant flowers draw pollinators and people like a magnet in spring and early summer. In late summer, interest is provided by the brownish pods that result from pollination. Even in winter, when the leaves drop, the strikingly-twisted branches add a stark but beautiful silhouette to your garden.

A mesquite tree is easy to identify, as they look like giant fern bushes. They can reach up to 30 feet tall, but the average tree growing in the wild will be half that size. Most are multi-trunked; within the harshest environments, the mesquite tree looks more like a tall, gnarly bush than a tree. The structure of the branches will be jointed and twisted, which adds to their uniqueness. They will have finger-shaped items covered in tiny little flowers during the early summer and spring. They happen before the formation of the brown bean pods, but they can vary based on the species. Most mesquite trees will have thorns that can be very long or short and sharp.

Even though the mesquite tree doesn't need a lot of maintenance, the ones growing around your home could use extra care whenever there is a sweltering summer or during extended droughts. Sun scorch is one issue that could hurt a mesquite tree planted within the landscape; however, they aren't as susceptible as a citrus tree. Deep watering now and again and occasional fertilization will help ensure that the mesquite trees won't decline in beauty or health. Mesquite trees planted on someone else's property may not be as strong as those in the desert. The more time the tree spends in a pot, the more likely it is to be root bound. Impaired root systems can make a tree struggle to receive what water they need, making it prone to falling over because the anchoring could be more sturdy. You can try as hard as you want, but making a wobbly tree anchor into the ground is nearly impossible. You prolong the inevitable if you place stronger stakes and wires and put the tree back in place when it falls. The best thing you can do for a severely unstable tree is to remove it and start using a healthy tree.

The Most Common Types of Mesquites:

Velvet Mesquite

Velvet mesquite trees are one of the most common in the deserts of the southwestern U.S. They are also found in the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan deserts. Growing 25 tall and 35 feet wide, they have deep root systems that allow them to thrive in dry climates. Yellow-green flowers will bloom in the spring, and the entire tree loses its leaves in winter.

Honey Mesquite

Honey mesquite trees can be found in the southern U.S. and Mexico. As with other mesquites, this variety can survive in the harshest conditions. However, this mesquite is often grown ornamentally because it can grow incredibly wide without gaining much height. Some have been recorded to grow 40 feet wide while only being a few feet tall. These trees also grow yellow flowers, but thorns accompany their blooms.

Screwbean Mesquite

Known by many names, including the American screwbean, tornillo, Fremont, and the screwbean mesquite, this type of mesquite tree can also be found in the southern U.S. and northern Mexico. A relative of the pea, these trees tend to be found in damper soil than that preferred by the velvet and honey variety. As the name implies, these trees can be identified by their distinctive screw-shaped beans protected by thorns.

Chilean Mesquite

Native to South America, the Chilean mesquite is a thornless variety of plants, making it an excellent ornamental tree for landscaping in arid climates. With fern-like foliage and twisting branches, this tree is an exciting addition to any garden. However, unlike some of its more deep-rooted relatives, this tree requires regular watering.

Creeping Mesquite

Also known as the Argentine or creeping screwbean, this tree is more shrub-like, growing only to about 9 feet high. With waxy leaves and sharp, white spines, these trees also produce screw-shaped pods in a bright yellow color. These trees also have a vast root network that helps them survive in arid areas.

White Mesquite

Found primarily in South America, the white mesquite tree is thorny with a short trunk and canopy that can grow to almost 50 feet high. White mesquite is widely known for its nutritious pods to make gluten-free flour. However, it is worth noting that these trees can be cut down for flooring, furniture, paving blocks, and wine casks.

Black Mesquite

Evergreen featuring a rounded canopy, the black mesquite tree is native to South America and grows in clay and alkaline soil. With a maximum height of 52 feet, most black mesquite trees grow between 13 and 32 feet high.

No matter which variety of mesquite you own or why you love it, you must keep them healthy. To help, here are the most common mesquite diseases to look for and how to prevent them.

Slime Flux

A tree disease that reliably expresses itself through dark, wet, sap-like patches descending from a tree wound or branch crotch. This condition is common in most trees, but mesquites are especially susceptible. Due to many invading bacteria, this seepage feels slimy and smells strong. Luckily this condition is not usually fatal, although it is very unsightly. Unfortunately, there's no specific prevention method apart from general tree maintenance and occasional deep watering.

Ganoderma Root Rot

Ganoderma root rot is a fungal disease. Ganoderma spores spread through the air or rainwater, ultimately infecting the tree through existing wounds in the roots of the tree. The way to tell this disease is to look for orange fungal growths along the tree's base; this is important because if left untreated, this condition will kill the tree. The best way to prevent Ganoderma root rot is to protect the tree from damage near the roots and provide it with all the necessary nutrients to defend itself.

Mesquite Borers

These invaders gain access to mesquite through open wounds, meaning a healthy tree can prevent entry if there's no available orifice. However, these insects do damage through their larvae, which hatch inside the tree and eat their way to the surface, harming sensitive vascular structures and more. Treating a borer-infected tree is difficult, but eliminating points of entry and shielding existing damage from the outside can reduce your mesquite's risk.

If you are considering a new landscape or want to add a locally beneficial tree to your yard. The Mesquite tree is the perfect choice for any Arizona yard. It is the habitat for many birds and insects and revitalizes the soil with nitrogen. Although they get messy and often lose branches in high winds storms, correctly maintained, the mesquite tree will be an excellent addition to your yard. Contact one of our arborists today if you have any questions about planting or caring for your mesquite trees!


Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page