Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Honey Mesquite

The honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa)
is a member of the legume family found in Southern California,
southeastern Nevada, southwestern Utah, most of Arizona and New Mexico, and bits of Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Louisiana. It has three common forms: (1) a single stemmed tree with crooked, drooping branches reaching 20 to 40 feet in height; (2) an erect, mutliple-stemmed bush or small tree, 10 to 15 feet tall; and (3) a running bush found in deep sandy soils. The largest trees are found along water courses or floodplains where the deep root system has access to year-round water. In the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts, rainfall is not sufficient to provide adequate surface soil mosture, so it typically occupies alkali sinks, outwash plains, dry lakes, oases, arroyos, or riverbanks, where plants have access to underground water. It has feathery foliage and straight,
paired spines on twigs.
I have found them prominently in a wash in southern Joshua Tree National Park and in the wash below Borrego Palm Canyon in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. It flowers
from March to November
with pale,
elongated spikes
and bears straight, yellow seedpods. The seedpods, ripening in July and August, are an important food source for many wildlife species including kangaroo rats, woodrats, ground squirrels, quail, doves, ravens, blacktailed jackrabbits, coyote, and mule deer.

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