Tuesday, October 8, 2013

This weeks favorite, the Mesquite Tree...

My 'favorite plant' feature is an opportunity to post about a plant that's caught my eye and is looking really good in the garden. However this week I'm feeling rather disconnected from my own garden, I haven't spent much time there and I’m not sure what's looking good. This beautiful tree, a Mesquite, grows in the front yard of my in-laws home in Truth or Consequences, NM.

You might recall we visited a T or C few weeks ago, unfortunately we had to return last week, my father in-law passed away. I am featuring their Mesquite Tree in his honor. I've been captivated by this tree since my first visit here back in 2008. It's the seed pods that first got my attention...

But the tiny leaves are beautiful too, especially against the blue blue sky.

It wasn't until taking these photos that I discovered another feature, it has spikes!

And it does drop a few pods…

Distance and age kept me from knowing my father in-law as a gardener, but I've heard many stories. He was a Nebraskan farmer and brought his farming ways with him when they moved to New Mexico, although on a smaller scale. He saw to it their small plot of land was terraced and a garden was planted. In later years, as balance became an issue for him, they purchased a pair of stock tanks in which he could grow vegetables, ready-made raised planters.

It's difficult for me to write with any authority about the Mesquite, since it doesn’t grow in my garden, but here are some facts I've found online...
  • a leguminous plant of the Prosopis genus found in northern Mexico through the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts, and up into the Southwestern United States as far north as southern Kansas, west to the Colorado Desert in California, and east to the eastern fifth of Texas. Several species are found in arid to semi-arid regions of southern and western South America (source).
  • Mesquite trees vary tremendously in size, depending on growing conditions. Where water is plentiful, and if the seedlings are not injured by weather or animals, trees may grow 40 to 50 feet tall, with a spread of 40 feet or more. The trunk forks only a few feet above the ground. If a new shoot is disturbed, the plant develops into a sprawling multi-trunked shrub (source).
  • fluffy, creamy-white flowers, which often have a greenish or yellowish cast, appear from spring to autumn. The beans, which mature in late summer, develop in a pod between four and nine inches long. When ripe, the beans are covered by a sweetish coating, which has a sugar content as high as 30 percent (source).
  • it adapts to almost any soil that is not soggy (source).
  • Mesquite beans can lie dormant for many years—some say up to 40 years—waiting for the right conditions for sprouting (source).
  • taproots of mesquites are legendary, growing seemingly as deep as needed to reach the water table—often 25 to 65 feet in length (source).
  • the Mesquite will grow to 30 ft tall and 40 ft wide, and is deciduous
  • it's tolerant of high heat with low water requirements
  • the cold tolerance of many species has been established but this tolerance is quite variable owing to the condition of the plant at the onset of winter. Heavily fertilized and irrigated trees will not tolerate the cold as well as those that have been conditioned with less water and no fertilizer late in the summer. Honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) and screwbean mesquite (P. pubescens) can survive temperatures to 0 ºF; velvet mesquite (P. velutina) is reliably cold hardy to at least 10 ºF; Chilean mesquite (P. chilensis) and black mesquite (P. nigra) are hardy to at least 15 ºF; Argentine mesquite (P. alba) and many South American hybrids suffer damage and dieback when temperatures fall below 15 – 20 ºF (source).
I was curious how old this tree might be, however since my in-laws have lived here for almost 20 years and the tree preceded them I have no way to know.


I can tell you they pop up freely around town, vacant lots always have a few, like this sturdy little guy.

“I could ask for no better monument over my grave than a good mesquite tree, its roots down deep like those of people who belong to the soil, its hardy branches, leaves and fruit holding memories of the soil. . . .”
— J. Frank Dobie, Texas writer (source)

As always I'm curious what's looking good in your garden this week...

All material © 2009-2013 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

37 comments:

  1. So sad about your father-in-law, Loree...glad to know he was able to garden to a degree even when it got more difficult...I'm sure he'd be pleased by your post. I remember reading somewhere that a garden is never finished until the gardener is laid to rest in it...I always kind of liked that idea.

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    1. Thank you Scott, I hadn't heard it expressed quite like that but I certainly do like the sentiment.

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  2. Sorry to hear about your father in-law. I'd never have guessed that Mesquite was z6!

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    1. Thank you Alan. Your comment about the zone had me digging a little deeper and I edited the hardiness info.

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  3. I'm so sorry to hear about your father-in-law. My condolences to you and Andrew on your loss.

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  4. Funny you should post about this, i just discovered these trees last night online. I was searching for a hardy substitute for a palo verde tree! Also, sorry to hear about your father in-law. Best regards. - Branden.

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    1. Thanks Branden. The Palo Verde is one of my very favorite trees, but these are pretty cool too. I wish you luck!

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  5. What a great way to remember your father-in-law. We die, but the trees we cherish live on. My thoughts are with you all.

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  6. I'm so sorry for your loss! Your post is a lovely tribute to a special gardener. Thinking fond thoughts of you and Andrew always but especially now.

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    1. Thank you Peter, we appreciate those thoughts.

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  7. Nice tribute. When I had a house built in San Antonio we kept a native Mesquite in the side yard planted with 609 Buffalo Grass under the canopy. We left it un-mowed like a prairie. It was quite a beautiful combination of color and texture.

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    1. Oh my! Yes that sounds beautiful.

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  8. Those are some thorns! The seed pods are like Christmas tree ornaments. No wonder these trees pop up liberally.
    The warmth that comes through in this post is a lovely tribute to Andrew's dad. Love to you both.

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    1. Great comparison ricki, and now I'm wishing I would have grabbed even more of them, they would look fabulous as ornaments.

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  9. Great tribute, but sorry about your loss...mesquites are generally very long-lived, plus hardy to our extremes. I pulled volunteers out of my old yard in Abq regularly, but it was worth having something so ruggedly attractive.

    Figured the serious spines would get your notice, like they've drawn blood from me!

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    1. Yikes! Drawn blood even, reminds me of the agave spike I drove under my fingernail the other day while picking soggy leaves from around it. Ouch.

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  10. Forgot to leave my link. Here it is: http://bannersbyricki.com/archives/3397

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  11. Loree, I'm sorry to hear of the loss of your father-in-law. My sympathies go out to you, your husband and the rest of your family. The mesquite tree is graceful, strong and resilient - a perfect choice to signify a life well-lived. I have no doubt that your father-in-law would appreciate the botanical tribute both as a gardener and as someone who surely knew of the importance plants play in your life.

    Here's my contribution to your meme: http://krispgarden.blogspot.com/2013/10/my-favorite-plant-this-week-yucca.html Thanks for hosting under difficult circumstances.

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    1. I found myself thinking of you and the loss of your mother-in-law a lot this last week Kris, as I thought about how to share the news here on my blog. It's an odd thing blogging...so personal and yet so anonymous. Everyone has a different comfort level with what they share.

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  12. Loree, good vibes out to you and your family: loss is hard, memories are good.I have spent significant chunks of my life in the southwest, Arizona and the SoCal desert areas for the most part. I feel a strong connection to these places , the Mesquite, Joshua trees,Ocotillo Pinyon Pines..though I don't think could live there again. Lovely quote from Mr Dobie.

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    1. Andrew and I talked a bit about our draw to the desert, and the possibility of someday living there. I'd like to try...although I need somewhere a bit more metropolitan than T or C! I think I'm an Arizona desert girl.

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  13. What a beautiful profile of this tree. The warmth and respect for your father in law come through in your words and images. Among the many things trees do for us, they are memory keepers and reminders of all that is steadfast. Condolences to you and Andrew, and his family.

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    1. "reminders of all that is steadfast" beautifully put Julie!

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  14. What a nice quote, as gardeners the things we plant may long outlive us and be our legacy. The Mesquite tree is quite ubiquitous in Texas where I grew up, the beans have the sugary pulp you mentioned and the hard seeds can be specially milled to yield some protein, what a good plant pick. My favorite plant this week is ex-Eupatorium coelestinum, Blue Mist Flower.

    http://weedingonthewildside.blogspot.com/2013/10/favorite-plant-of-week-blue-mist-flower.html

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    1. I hope nobody mistakes my horrid Styrax japonica trees as my legacy! :)

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  15. A fitting tribute to your father-in-law. Sorry to hear about his passing away. Our thoughts are with you, Andrew and his family.

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  16. What a beautiful tree!! I love desert trees, naturally.

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  17. Sorry to hear about your father-in-law. The thorns can be a problem with mesquites but there are thornless varieties available.

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    1. I would be hard pressed to give up the thorns myself, but I suppose they can do a lot of damage.

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  18. A gorgeous tree and a beautiful tribute to Andrew's father. Xoxo

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  19. Finally! My post for the week is here: http://bonneylassie.blogspot.com/2013/10/my-favorite-plant-in-garden-right-now.html

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  20. I'm sorry for Andrew's and your loss. Your mesquite post is a lovely way to eulogize your father-in-law. Dobie, author of your quote at the end, is a beloved figure here in Austin. There's a statue of him in a swimsuit down at Barton Springs Pool, philosophizing with two other local legends. Apparently the three of them often met to take a dip and engage in animated discussions. http://www.capitalareastatues.com/philosopher.html

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