Prosopis velutina – Velvet Mesquite

Prosopis velutina - Velvet Mesquite (flowers)

Prosopis velutina - Velvet Mesquite (flowers and leaves)

Prosopis velutina - Velvet Mesquite (green bean pods)

Prosopis velutina - Velvet Mesquite (dry bean pod)

Prosopis velutina - Velvet Mesquite

Plant Name

Scientific Name: Prosopis velutina

Synonyms: Neltuma velutina, Prosopis articulata, P. chilensis var. velutina, P. juliflora

Common Name: Velvet Mesquite

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial, Deciduous

Growth Habit: Tree, Shrub

Arizona Native Status: Native

Habitat: Desert, Upland, Riparian. Velvet Mesquites grow taller in areas with more water, and along washes and rivers, they can form dense, shady riparian woodlands known as mesquite bosques.

Flower Color: Light greenish yellow to pale golden yellow

Flowering Season: Spring, Summer

Height: To 30 feet (9.1 m) tall or more

Description: The flowers are densely clustered on 4 inch (10 cm) long, spike-like racemes. The individual flowers are tiny and have 5 petals. The flowers are followed by flattened, elongated, green drying in to tan, 6 inch (15 cm) long bean pods. The dry, fallen bean pods can become curled after exposure to rain and weather. The bean pods are eaten by desert animals like squirrels, rabbits, rodents, javelina (collared peccaries), coyotes, and deer. The leaves are bipinnately compound with 15 to 30 pairs of green, oblong, secondary leaflets. The foliage is covered in short, fine, velvety hairs. The branches have sharp, woody spines. The bark is dark ashy brown in color and very rough and flaking. Any wounds in the wood will ooze sticky, black sap.

Special Characteristics

Allergenic – The pollen is a moderate allergen.

Culturally Significant Plant – The beans were an important food source for Southwestern Native Americans, and the sap and leaves were used for medicinal purposes.

Edible – The dry, tan-colored bean pods are edible and can be ground into sweet, rich, nutritious mesquite flour. The beans and the fragrant wood can be burned to flavor smoked and barbecued meat. The flowers attract numerous honeybees and are a source for delicious mesquite honey.

If you live here in Arizona, it is well worth it to grow one of these trees in your yard as a source for aromatic firewood (dead or pruned branches) and beans. These trees are messy, drip black sap, and have adventurous roots, so don't grow one where it would hang over a patio or pool.

Fragrant – The flowers have a sweet, honey-like fragrance, and the burning wood is incredibly aromatic with a characteristic smokey mesquite smell.

Legal StatusProtected Native Plant (Salvage Assessed, Harvest Restricted), Federal Noxious Weed. Wild Velvet Mesquites are protected and are not considered to be weeds here in Arizona, but they can be weedy when introduced into other areas where they are not native.

Classification

Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Subclass: Rosidae
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae – Pea family
Genus: Prosopis L. – mesquite
Species: Prosopis velutina Woot. – velvet mesquite

More About This Plant

Arizona County Distribution Map