Prosopis velutina

Accession Count: 218
Common Name: Velvet Mesquite
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Family Name: Fabaceae
Botanical Name: Prosopis velutina
Synonyms:
Family Synonyms: Leguminosae
Sub Species:
Variety:
Forma:
Cultivar:
Characteristics: The leaves are compound that is leaves are comprised of separate leaflets. In fact mesquite like its relatives has doubly compound leaves - the leaflets themselves are made up of several leaflets. Velvet mesquites have small regular flowers clustered together in dense yellow spikes. Prosopis can be told by its one or two pairs of primary leaflets (each of which are comprised of many small leaflets) and flowers with ten stamens. Pods of the velvet mesquite are straw-colored sometimes with red streaks flattened and ten to eight cm long. Two other mesquites occur near Tucson differing by larger more widely spaced leaflets (honey mesquite) or pods tightly coiled (screwbean mesquite).
Compound: Pro vel
Geographic Origin: Desert Southwest
Ecozone Origin: Nearctic
Biome Origin:
Natural History: Prosopis is a genus of spiny trees and shrubs found in warm regions primarily of the New World. The paired spines positioned at the base of leaves may serve to protect the mesquites from large herbivores. The historical expansion and reduction of the velvet mesquite woodlands up desert mountainsides and back down as now to primary watercourses is documented for the last 12000 years using evidence from pack-rat middens. Pack-rats carry many plant parts back to their nest; under the right circumstances, these clues to historical plant distributions can then be preserved for thousands of years as has been the case for velvet mesquite. Velvet mesquites flower in the spring and may flower again in the summer if the rains are sufficient. The flowers are tiny but a few hundred are produced together in a spike offering a rich nectar resource for insect visitors. The fruit of the mesquite is a dry pod and is enjoyed by livestock who then spread the seeds. This and the suppression of fire have encouraged the mesquite to expand into grasslands transforming them into woodlands.
Cultivation Notes: A specimen tree for desert landscapes or informally as a tree or shrub in naturalized areas; provides filtered shade and tolerates lawn situations. Tucson Basin native.
Ethnobotany: Due to the abundance of this tree in the Southwest, there are uses for the velvet mesquite in a variety of aspects of life. Bees pollinate it and some enthusiasts claim that it produces the world’s finest honey. The beans known as “Pechitas” are edible and have served as important starch in the diets of indigenous people. The flowers are also sweet and edible and the sap can be made into a cold and flu remedy or candy. Locals of the southwest also revere the charcoal made from mesquite wood for the delicious flavor it gives food on the grill. The roots bark and leaves have medicinal properties and have been used for conjunctivitis intestinal parasites acne and dandruff. The inner bark is also used in basketry and fabrics. The wood itself can be used as lumber for houses and furniture.

Height: 20 - 50 feet
Width: 20 - 50 feet
Growth Rate:
Grow Season: Summer
Flower Season: Spring
Color: Yellow
Function: Shade
Spread: Non-spreading
Allergen: Allergenic
Invasive:
Toxicity: Benign
Hardy: Hardy
Water Use: Low water Use

Citations:
  1.  Walters, James E, and Balbir Backhaus. Shade and Color with Water-Conserving Plants. Timber Press, 1992.
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Prosopis velutina