Scientific Name: Prosopis glandulosa
Plant Family: Fabaceae
Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) is a widespread tree across the arid and semi-arid areas of the Southwestern U.S. and adjacent Mexico. These trees are able to grow remarkably fast because they can decouple themselves from the normal environmental limiting factors of water and nitrogen availability. In our deserts the mesquite trees have deep roots that can tap underground pools of water as much as 30-50 feet or more below the ground surface. Like many other legumes, much of the nitrogen for growth comes from a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria living in nodules on the mesquite roots. In many ways, mesquite trees are keystone species in our deserts. The flowering trees are very attractive to bees, and mesquite honey is world famous. The leaves and pods of mesquite are high in nitrogen and provide a good source of protein for many native animals. However, because of their rapid growth and the spread of the seeds through the digestive system of rabbits and grazing animals, mesquite can be a troublesome invader of rangelands.