Bits & Briefs

Summer  2009

And here it is!  It's happening again already!  No, not some new government expenditure, but the later summer in the Arizona deserts.  The time of year that makes even seasoned gardeners cringe and the newly indoctrinated wonder if they can really save money growing their own fruits and veggies.

There is one plant, though, that does take some of the "ugh" out of that rasty, withered late summer look, and does lend a lush, longed-for look of green to the landscape.  The Mesquite.  Sort of a mundane and even maligned tree in some circles it sure does the job of providing summer shade for vast areas of the Valley.  This is not a tree for everyone however.  Especially those having very small yards and an aversion to seed pods and leaves lying enmasse beneath the tree.

Mesquite laying downMuch like people, Mesquites are a variable lot.  There are some very nice named varieties which have been selected for a particular desirable quality such as no thorns or better growth habit.  Thorns on the "down home" grown Mesquites range from practically none to small, medium, large and humongous.  And yes, some people (very few) choose trees because they do have great, humongous, decorative looking thorns.  And then there are the sneaky types.  You've selected a small, very young tree with nice silky branches.  It's growing like gangbusters and looking great...but oh, oh.  There's a little adolescent glitch we just noticed.  Should we just ignore it?  Maybe it's just a phase.  There are some thorns popping out on those hitherto innocent, well behaved branches.  We'll just wait.  Maybe they'll go away if we don't make a big deal about it.  We are definitely trying to look the other way.  Surely the phase has passed.  We go ahead and look.  OH NO!  Thorns are popping out everywhere!  How could this be??  It's become a demon!.....and it was always such a good little tree.  Is it time for tough love?? Texas Honey Mesquite


Tree shape, leaf pattern and even tree size vary too.  Some of the ugly ducklings rejected in the container become very well behaved and even unique looking mature trees, while the robust, upright ones quickly become gigantic nightmares.  If you don't like to prune don't buy a Mesquite, as most will require some at some point (save any wood for the barbecue_.  We have even seen some sheared ones that look like giant manmade bonsais.  Hmmmm.  And some of the neatest looking trees are ones that blew over, retained some living roots in the soil and then were imaginatively pruned instead of going into the chipper.  And remember, a mature multitrunked Mesquite is always a thing of beauty.  Some of the most fascinating and picturesque shaped trees can be found among our native Mesquites that have survived without the hand of man.  Inching along for years on only minimal rainfall, these ancient trees are true natural bonsais.


Mesquite Laying DownYes, we know there are lots of other trees that actually look good now and that Mesquites are not for everyone.  They may get huge fast, develop vicious thorns, require expensive pruning, drop tons of pods (which the rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, javelina and coyotes love), blow over, and invade septic systems.  But Hey!  When all about you are stressed and dry, the Mesquite remains lush and green..a man among trees!



Animals are desperate for food and water.  A small, newly planted Mesquite is like manna from heaven for all your cute rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks and if you don't put some physical barrier(like chicken wire) around it immediately it'll be GONE BY DAWN!