Native Arizona Mesquite Trees – growing tips – Velvet mesquite trees, The Tree of Life

Honey and Velvet Mesquite Trees can take the extreme heat and the cold! This tree grows fast.  What is the most common tree of the Desert Southwest?  It is the Mesquite! Like many members of the Legume Family, mesquite trees restore nitrogen to the soil.

Mesquite Tree Arizona
Honey Mesquite Tree

There are 3 common species of NATIVE mesquite trees:  Screwbean Mesquite (Prosopis pubescens ),  Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), and Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina).

Native Arizona Trees, Mesquite
Native Desert Tree – Honey Mesquite

These native trees are extremely drought tolerant. Honey Mesquites are more rounded with big, floppy, drooping branches.  The foliage is feathery and straight – paired with sharp spines on twigs.

yound mesquite tree
Arizona Native Mesquite Tree

This tree normally reaches 20–30 ft, but can reach as tall as 50 ft (15 m). The growth rate is medium.  Honey mesquite coppices  (it will make new growth from a root or stump if it is cut down), making permanent removal extremely hard.  If a single trunk is cut down the Honey Mesquite will replace it with a multiple trunk version.

Honey Mesquite Tree variety species
Tree with large needles, spikes in Arizona

The Honey Mesquite has pale, yellow, elongated spikes and bears straight, yellow seed bean pods. In this picture you can see how long and strong this mesquite’s spikes are. I’ve learned NOT to wear flip-flops when walking around our Honey Mesquite!

Caring for mesquite trees is a simple process after the tree has fully matured. Mesquite trees need a full day’s worth of direct sun light to grow. Make sure to plant your mesquite tree in a place where it will always have a lot of quality sun.

Good staking is crucial to the mesquite tree, especially in areas with severe summer storms, monsoon season, or high winds.

tree ties for young mesquite
Staking your mesquite trees

The shade from these native Arizona trees create a 10-15 degree cooler temperature!

 Mesquite tree for shade

 

The shortcoming of a Chilean or Honey Mesquite tree is wind damage. Proper staking and proper watering can help you avoid wind damage with your mesquite trees.

staking your tree
staking your honey mesquite tree helps prevent wind damage

Make your Mesquite trees “seek out” water and nutrients by careful arrangement of your irrigation emitters and scheduled DEEP irrigation. This will develop a more dispersed root system and reduces the risk of wind throw.

Pruning will keep your tree from becoming messy, while stimulating new growth on those branches that you pruned. The dead, diseased, broken or weak branches, drain the Mesquite tree’s energy.

Mesquite bean pods are rich in carbohydrates and have very low moisture content, making them an excellent source for harvesting, processing, and storage.  A variety of animals eat the seeds such as quail, dear, javelina, coyotes, squirrels and rats.

Historic records have indicated that almost every part of the mesquite tree has a use. The Pima Indians of southern Arizona referred to the mesquite as the TREE OF LIFE.

mesquite tree seeds bean pods
Mesquite tree leaves and bean pods 

During the inevitable droughts and deprivations of desert frontier days, the mesquite trees served up the primary food source for caravans and settlers.  Mesquite beans became manna from heaven.

Medical studies of mesquite trees and other desert foods, said that despite its sweetness, mesquite flour (made by grinding whole pods) is extremely effective in controlling blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

Mesquite trees have lateral roots that extend far beyond the canopies of the plants and tap-roots that penetrate well below the surface of the soil.  Some mesquites may live for more than two centuries;  according to U. S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.

(Prosopis Velutina) Velvet Mesquite is the most common of the North American varieties, it ranges from southern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and most common to the Chihuahua and Sonoran deserts of Mexico.

Tree with ferny leaves and sharp thorns
Native Desert Trees, Velvet Mesquite Tree

Velvet Mesquite Trees are a deciduous plant that benefits by being able to retain moisture during the winter or exceptionally dry seasons better because water does not escape through the leaves.  These Mesquite trees have elongated bean pods that are sweet to taste when ripe ( reddish-yellow color).   This native tree has thorns with varying lengths even on the same branch.

Mesquite Trees
Velvet Mesquite Trees in Arizona

For the first year,  deeply water your mesquite tree every week or so until it has properly matured. Once your velvet mesquite tree has matured, it can survive with a little supplemental water in addition to natural rain. In case of droughts, do water your mesquite trees more often.

Velvet Mesquites hold the record for deepest root (160′); these tap-roots can tap into deep, underground water supplies that aren’t available to the average plant.

The seeds of mesquite trees need to be scarified (abraded in flash flood or digestive tract) to germinate. Coyotes, and other desert animals eat the bean pods regularly.

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Diseases of trees – mistletoe growing on a tree – infected Mesquite trees

Does your tree look like it has a disease?  It is common for Mistletoe to invade a host tree and become a parasite.  Desert mistletoe is a true evergreen plant and is an obligate (binding) parasite on its host.

Mistletoe is one of the main causes of diseases in mesquite trees and is native to much of the eastern third of the U. S.  Mistletoe plant berries are said to be poisonous, but birds do eat them.

mesquite tree disease, infected with mistletoe

Desert Mistletoe or mesquite mistletoe, Phoradendron californicum, is a parasitic plant native to southern California, Nevada, Arizona, and Baja California. It can be found in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts under 4000 feet elevation.  The female Mistletoe plant produces red seeds that the birds love to eat.

disease growth on desert trees
Desert Mistletoe on trees, birds eat the berries

Mistletoe seed and red berries are an important part of the desert bird’s diet.  The seeds are “sticky” and birds bring them to branches of trees where they perch.   The seeds germinate and grow inside the tree. The species most affected are the leguminous trees in the low desert including:

  • mesquite,  Prosopis
  • palo verde,  Cercidium
  • ironwood, Olneya
  • acacia,  Acacia greggii  

The mistletoe seeds germinate and grow into the tree with sinkers (organs acting much like the roots of a plant).  The mistletoe sinkers absorb water and nutrients from the tree host.  These mistletoe roots grow inside the tree for some time eventually producing the conspicuous growth of stems, leaves and bulges.

witches broom infection on a desert tree
tree infected with Mistletoe – called a witches broom

Mistletoe takes a long time to kill a tree but certainly causes decline.  Mistletoe infections cause swelling and witches’ brooms  (what is called the growth of stems seen in the photo below).  Old severe infections may result in swollen areas of dead wood that are brittle and break easily.  These limbs should be removed if they pose any danger.

honey mesquite tree with disease growth
mistletoe growing in tree, wear some gloves and remove the growth manually

The only way to control mistletoe is to remove it manually.  Put some gloves on and remove the mistletoe growth and stems with your hands.  Manual removal does not kill the mistletoe because it is growing inside the trees tissue; but good control can be achieved by removing it.

Pruning out heavily infected branches may help… but that decision is usually based on how much can be pruned without destroying the beauty of the tree.  Also, it is impossible to know if you have pruned far enough away from the infection to get all the mistletoe that is growing inside the host.

mistletoe disease in tree

Wrapping pruned sites is not recommended since such procedures do not kill the mistletoe and may easily cause more harm than good to the tree. Sprays sold for mistletoe control will remove the outside growth just as pruning, but they do not kill the part of the mistletoe plant inside the tree.

Agua Caliente History – a natural spring park in Tucson, AZ (part 1 of 3)

Drive northeast of the Tucson city limits and you will discover a natural spring surrounded by wildlife, palm trees and native vegetation.  Agua Caliente Park transports a visitor from the Sonoran Desert to a 101-acre hidden oasis.

Agua Caliente, (hot water) is named for the warm water spring that supports several ponds within the park.

sites in Tucson - must visit
a natural spring in Tucson – Agua Caliente Park

Agua Caliente Park has an open lawn edged by tall Date Palms, and a stream bank lined with mature California Fan Palms close to 100 years old.

Tucson, AZ parks and springs
Palm trees at Agua Caliente

Human habitation at Agua Caliente has been found to date back about 5,500 years.  I’d like to share a simple history and insights into the rich farming and ranching of the unique desert oasis called Agua Caliente.

Arizona natural spring park
natural spring in Tucson Arizona – Agua Caliente

From A.D. 600 to 1450, the prehistoric Hohokam constructed one of the largest and most advanced irrigation networks ever created using pre-industrial technology.

This technology would eventually give form to the unique prehistoric culture of southern Arizona known as the Hohokam.

hohokam found at Agua Caliente, Tucson, AZ
Hohokam village, Whiptail site

Around 1150 AD, a Hohokam village, referred to as the Whiptail Site, was established that extended into a portion of Agua Caliente in the Tucson basin.

hohokam people in Tucson Basin, AZ
Hohokam artifacts found at Agua Caliente

Deserving of our respect, the incredible Hohokam were able to sustain life in the area of Agua Caliente for nearly 1,500 years.

Hohokam lived at Agua Caliente in Tucson, AZ
Hohokam pottery – approximately 800 CE (A.D.)

The hot spring at the Whiptail Site at Agua Caliente Park has attracted native settlers since about 2500 B.C.  These facts are what has helped put the Tucson Basin on the map as one of the oldest continuously inhabited areas in North America.

Coronado National Forest in Tucson
Agua Caliente is south of the Coronado National Forest , Mt Lemmon area
Agua Caliente oldest Mesquite Tree
Giant Mesquite Tree by the main Ranch House is over 250 yrs old

About 1853-1870s,  Agua Caliente Spring was used as an army encampment following the Gadsden Purchase.  What is the Gadsden Purchase?

**James Gadsden was the U.S. Minister to Mexico who was sent to renegotiate a border with Mexico that provided a route for a southern railroad in exchange for U.S. financial obligations.

places to visit in Tucson, AZ
Agua Caliente Park – a must see in Tucson, AZ

In 1873, Peter Bain filed the first formal claim to 160 acres surrounding Agua Caliente Spring.  He began a dairy cattle operation by bringing cows north from Sonora. Bain built a house, several outbuildings and corrals at Agua Caliente.

must see parks in Tucson, AZ
Ranch House, now an art gallery, at Agua Caliente spring

In 1875,  James P. Fuller purchased “Agua Caliente Rancho” and established an orchard and cattle ranch on the property.

native Velvet Mesquites for shade
native Mesquite trees at Agua Caliente in Tucson

In 1881, Fuller’s Hot Springs Resort was advertised as a medicinal and recreational destination.  He promoted the curative properties of the natural warm springs.

Agua Caliente Springs and Ranch
Agua Caliente warm springs

1880s-1920s.  Various owners operated Agua Caliente as a cattle ranch and resort.  The ranch bunkhouse, which dates back to the 1920s, was used by the ranch hands.

historic sites in Arizona
Historic Ranch House at Agua Caliente Park in Tucson
best parks in Tucson, Arizona
Agua Caliente Ranch and Hot Springs

The ranch house, caretaker cottage, now known as Rose Cottage, and the bunk house have been restored. The ranch house depicts the home as it may have appeared in the 1920s.

Tucson, AZ historic landmark
Rose Cottage is a historic building at Agua Caliente

In 1935,  Gibson DeKalb Hazard purchased Agua Caliente and operated it as a working ranch while also growing fruit and alfalfa.

In 1951,  the Filiatrault family took over the ownership of Agua Caliente consisting of three large lakes.  They also grew alfalfa for their cattle and horses and maintained the fruit orchard Fuller established in 1875.

place to visit in Arizona
Agua Caliente Spring Tucson, AZ

In 1984,  local businessman Roy P. Drachman donated over $200,000 toward the purchase of Agua Caliente.  The donation provided the incentive for Pima County to acquire the property and establish Agua Caliente Park.

Agua Caliente Park, a Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation Facility,  opened on January 19th, 1985.

March 1, 1997.  Agua Caliente’s expansion areas were opened for public use. The park improvements included a paved entry drive and parking lot, accessible trails, interpretive signs explaining the waterfowl and history of this unique park, and a new maintenance building.

Drachman donated to Agua Caliente
signs throughout Agua Caliente

April 17, 2004.  The grand opening of the newly restored Ranch House and Rose Cottage.

The ranch house was built around 1873 and is currently a visitor center and an art gallery.  Call 520-749-3718 for more information.

Agua Caliente Oasis in Tucson
Historic places in Arizona

July 9, 2009.  Agua Caliente Ranch Historic Landscape was entered into the National Register of Historic Places.

For more interesting info click , part 2 of 3 – http://tjsgarden.com/2013/09/07/best-picnics-family-time-perfect-weddings-tucson-spring-park/

part 3 of 3 – http://tjsgarden.com/2013/09/12/agua-caliente-park-spring-drying-up-tucson/

Pima County Agua Caliente Park, 12325 East Roger Road, Tucson  85749         Phone: 520-877-6120

The Thornless Chilean Mesquite is the best tree for Shade

The Shade from this Thornless Chilean MesquiteProsopis chilensis, creates a 10-15 degree cooler temperature in our yard. The dogs use the shade from the Mesquites to stay cool.

Below in the photo is a Hybrid Mesquite that is Thornless, called the Chilean Mesquite. By providing abundant shade, a lush green leaf canopy and graceful fissured brown trunks, Thornless Mesquites are another of the wonderful trees that dispelled the myth that desert landscapes were hot, barren, spiny and uninviting. Chilean or Thornless Mesquite trees are beautiful and one of the best shade trees for your yard.

best shade tree
Our Chilean Mesquite Tree makes the best shade tree

The Thornless (Chilean) Mesquite Tree pictured here is approximately 15 years old.

Shade is a welcome addition to all desert landscapes, xeriscaping, especially in the extreme heat of The Sonoran Desert.  The shade produced by Thornless Hybrid Mesquites, (Chileans) can range from filtered to quite dense which can inhibit the growth and flowering of some under-story plantings.

When deciding where to grow your Mesquite Tree, consider the ultimate shade that can be produced by these trees and how it will affect the growth and flowering of under-story plants. Also note from my experience that any plant, vine, or flower placed too close to the Mesquite will not do well.

chilean mesquite
The Shade from this Mesquite Tree creates a 10-15 degree cooler temperature in our yard.

At maturity, Chilean Mesquites can be up to 30 feet tall and as wide…with dome-shaped, spreading canopies, this Hybrid in the photo below is much taller.  They are cold resistant to 10 to 15 degrees F.  Thornless Mesquites are semi-deciduous, losing  a portion of their leaves in warmer winters in the Phoenix, Arizona and Palm Desert, California areas.

Las Vegas and Tucson, Arizona will have a little more leaf shed due to the lower winter temperatures. Leaves remaining through the winter are shed rapidly in spring just prior to bud break. Mesquite trees are often easily damaged or completely uprooted by the high winds associated with the summer rainy season.  Proper tree staking is essential!!

Below is a picture of our 15 year old Chilean Mesquite Tree, majestic, healthy and strong. This Tree is one of,  if not the tallest Mesquite Tree, or any tree in our area.

huge mesquite shade tree
The Best Shade Tree. The wind was blowing during the photo.

When it comes to shade – this Thornless Mesquite is the perfect tree for shade! It is also loved by the neighborhood birds.