Prosopis laevigata

I’m on vacation, so a few of the entries to the end of February will be short. — Daniel.

Prosopis laevigata is one of roughly fifty species of mesquite. Smooth mesquite is native from Texas south to Argentina. Throughout its range, it is primarily a species of interior highlands, where it is found in open forests and grasslands. Occasionally, when it is the dominant woody species of forests, these forests are called mezquiteras.

According to 20 Árboles de El Charco del Ingenio, local peoples in Guanajuato use the pods to make a regional version of the beverage atole (scroll down this page for atole de mezquite). Very sensible, as it seems the flour made from the pods is a potential (and highly nutritious) economic crop. However, use of the plants, particularly for timber and firewood, has caused numbers to decline. Fortunately, it remains a “species of lower risk / least concern” according to the IUCN Red List.

The bees (and other hymenopterans) were swarming around this particular tree in yesterday’s afternoon sun, and apparently a very fine honey is produced. Although we spotted the hive, we lacked our beekeeper suits and didn’t sample it.

Prosopis laevigata

9 responses to “Prosopis laevigata”

  1. Meg Bernstein

    Interesting to know more about this tree. I bet the honey is really good.

  2. Bobbie

    West Texans know that winter is over when the mesquite greens up. The wood from this “tree” is really hard and durable. I’ve seen antique furniture made from it, presumably from the larger species. Grillers like to cook with the wood, claiming it gives the best flavor to fajitas and steaks. The pods are sweet when dry and can be found in local groceries. I can tell you that the thorns hurt like the dickens if you are careless and get stabbed.

  3. Derek Roff

    Mesquite is a wonderful tree from many points of view, providing food and ecological benefits to humans and other species. Unfortunately, it is hard to work around, if you are trying to put the land to some other intensive use. I’d wager that many times more mesquites have been lost to intentional eradication efforts, primarily clearing the land for cattle and mono-crop agriculture, than to firewood and timber.

  4. elizabeth a airhart

    daniel may have gone south of the border

  5. Connie

    Here in the Northeast US, in early Spring when the nectar flow is really heavy, we can open a beehive without protective gear. But, South of the Mexican border is now Africanized bee territory, so you were wise to keep your distance.

  6. John Jebaraj

    Is it not a member of Mimosaceae? In what way this plant is different from Prosopis juliflora, very commonly distributed in the southern states of our place?(India, Tamil Nadu, Chennai)

  7. Bobbie

    You don’t have to go to Mexico to get stung by Africanized bees. Just trot on down to East Texas and you can find a few. lol! I once kept bees commercially and found a few myself.

  8. AJ

    John – Mimosaceae is more currently classified as a subfamily within the Fabaceae – Mimosoideae. Hopefully that’s spelled correctly.

  9. Equisetum

    Now we know: when the going gets tough, Daniel heads for the drylands!

    Kidding aside, it was good to be reminded of the dismal ecological history of mesquite — from extermination by spray, fire, chain drag, and for all I know dynamite, to make it easier for imported beef cattle to graze the range to dirt; harvest for the nation’s charcoal grills, and finally a little consciousness that it might be a bit shortsighted to continue the destruction.

    I’m always fascinated by the plethora of pollinators swarming over mesquite (and similar tiny-flowered inflorescences) in early spring — what a reservoir for the native pollinators which are so important to perpetuating native species, especially those in the harsher environments.

    Gary Nabhan and Stephen Buchmann’s book Forgotten Pollinators should fascinate anyone here — and so should O’Toole and Raw’s Bees of the World. Now that factory-farmed imported (for us New-Worlders) bees are in decline, it’s more important than ever to understand who pollinates what and how efficiently — the answer in the case of New World crops such as squashes, beans, tomatoes, peppers is not “the honeybee.” And probably not in the case of the Mesquites, either!

    Both books are available from Amazon — I hope the current edition of Bees of the World has not been watered down from my 1999 version — it’s listed as Young Adult, and the range and detail of my edition goes far beyond YA books as we know them in the US!

    molly

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