Thursday, August 31, 2017

Velvet Mesquite

Near Quitobaquito Spring in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument there is a plentiful amount of velvet mesquite (Prosopis velutina). 
Quitobaquito Spring. The mesquite trees are seen lining up behind the far end of the pond.
Velvet mesquite
I took notice of it earlier in the summer when it was forming flowers, known as catkins, which are yellow and in cylindrical clusters. 
Catkins just starting to turn yellow.
Catkins are clusters of tiny yellow flowers.
I visited later and saw the same trees when the flowers had transitioned to seed pods, or legumes. When young the seed pods are green and look like pea pods, but they eventually dry out. I saw them during the drying out process. 
Seed pods on a velvet mesquite.
Seed pods.
Native Americans used ground mesquite seeds to make flour. To germinate the seeds need to be scarified. This takes place in the digestive tracts of animals, such as coyotes, peccaries, mule deer, white-tailed deer, jackrabbits and ground squirrels, that eat them. They are thus dispersed widely as they pass through the digestive tracts of animals. 

The leaves are 3 to 6 inches long and bipinnately compound and fold closed at night. They lose the leaves in winter and then leaf-out again in spring. They have a tap root that sinks deep into the ground, much deeper than the height of the tree, and roots extend 50 feet and more, and take advantage of water sources unavailable for other plants. It is no surprise to seem them clustered around the spring. 
Velvet mesquite leaves.
The velvet mesquite is native to central and southern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. 

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like the seeds are scarified AND fertilized at the same time. The seed pods look like a cross between green beans and cayenne peppers.