Velvet mesquite is the predominate native mesquite of southern Arizona. If you go west toward California, you will start running into western honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa var. torreyana) and screwbean mesquite (Prosopis pubescens) and likewise if you head over to the eastern border of Arizona you will run into the same species. Go a little further east and you will find Texas honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa var. glandulosa), which you will also find along the Interstate cutting across Arizona as the seed fell from trucks transporting cattle from Texas to California…think manure falling from trucks, as cattle find mesquite beans quite yummy. And in Tucson and numerous other towns of southern Arizona you find the exotic species from South America that are often lumped under “Chilean Mesquite”. When I worked in nurseries in Tucson I grew velvet mesquite, but I was also a big fan of the thorny versions of Prosopis chilensis and Prosopis alba and grew them. I so regret it now. Yes, they make a beautiful ornamental, but there are so many South American selections in Tucson now that I bet you could not get true native seed off a velvet mesquite in town.
Anyway, I love the resurgence of interest in our native velvet mesquite. Much of the interest is in the beans as they are ground to make mesquite flour, but you got to admit that this tree is just a wonderful native for all the wildlife its sustains. Ants, bees, wasps, beetles, birds, rodents and larger mammals as well get something from our native mesquite. Did I mention its drought tolerance, its glorious litter or that it fixes nitrogen to the soil? And as I sit writing this little blurb there are mesquite logs burning in our wood stove. What’s not to love about this tree? Nothing. I need to return to growing this beautiful legume of the desert and who knows, I could be rich or better yet, have a passion fulfilled. Oh yeah.
A couple notes: please take my taxonomy of these mesquites with a grain of salt. It could be a little off. The taxonomy does seem to change every few years. I simply wrote what I remembered and did not look them up for the umpteenth time. And, the photo of the mesquite beans is mine and taken not to far from our 1991 Marvelette.