This week we end our blogs series on Shade Tree Types with our final tree--the Native Mesquite.
The Native Mesquite is popular with people who want a tree that can grow to be quite large and aren’t concerned about thorns. A local Native Mesquite pictured left shows the giant canopy of a full-grown tree. Mesquites can grow up to 30 ft tall and wide and are known for their strong root systems that help support them during strong winds and storms. They are semi-deciduous so the trees lose some of their leaves during the winter. By mid-spring, the trees bloom into cream colored, cylindrical flowers and tan seed pods are shed in summer. A fun fact about Native Mesquites is that their pods can be ground into flour and used in many recipes. Refer to our blog on All About Mesquite for mesquite flour recipes and to learn about the other uses of mesquite pods and how to harvest them yourself!
One important thing to note about the Native Mesquite is that the thorns can be quite large and sharp, as pictured right, so if this is a concern you might want to consider the Thornless Hybrid Mesquite.
Care and Maintenance
The Native Mesquite sapling you will receive comes in a 5-gallon base and tends to be 3-6 feet tall (pictured below). Plant your sapling in an area that receives full sun and during the first year, make sure to water the tree deeply, to 2-3 feet deep and away from the trunk to encourage the growth of a strong root system. The Native Mesquite has a natural deep root system that can grow over 100 feet laterally in order to find water, and the first 2-3 years are the most important in establishing this root system. During the spring and fall/winter, water it once every 14 days or less if there is rainfall, but during the hottest summer months increase the watering to once every week. Refer to our blog on How to Properly Water Your Trees for more information on watering techniques.
After the first year of growth, periodic thinning is the best way to prune your tree. Remove no more than 20% of the canopy during the growing season in order to encourage root development that is proportional to the shoot growth of young trees. In areas with heavy monsoons, it is important to prune before the beginning of the storm season. Additional pruning, 3 to 4 weeks later, will reduce the risk of wind-throw and branch damage. Pruning more than 20% of the canopy can impede rooting and encourage undesired re-growth of dense, top-heavy clusters of branches and leaves.
While we typically don’t encourage staking, young trees can become top heavy and may need to be staked for a brief period (no more than the first year). Please refer to our blog on How to Properly Stake a Tree for guidance
Native Mesquites are fast-growing, hardy trees and widely used in desert landscaping. While the pods are edible it should also be noted that a full-grown tree can potentially shed quite a bit of them so make sure and keep this in mind when you are deciding where to plant your tree. And remember they have thorns!
If you have a Native Mesquite or are thinking of getting one and have questions, please post them on our Ask the Arborist forum here and our volunteer Arborist, Erik, will answer them.
Erik the Arborist, on our forum: http://vpaaz.org/STForum
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