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Wood Species: Mesquite

Scientific Name: Prosopis

Trade Name: Mesquite

Family Name: Fabaceae

Common Names: White mesquite, Black mesquite, Honely mesquite, Screwbean mesquite, Tornillo, Creeping mesquite, Velvet mesquite, Kiawe

Regions of Distribution: North America, Central America, South America, Pacific Islands

Countries of Distribution: Mexico, United States, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador.


Color: Light brown to dark reddish brown

Grain: High in character, with ingrown bark and mineral streaks. Most commonly used in flooring as end-grain block, which has small irregular cracks radiating across the grain.

Variations within species and grades: One grade; moderate color variations.


Hardness/Janka: 2345 (82% harder than Northern red oak).

Dimensional Stability: Excellent (3.2; 63% more stable than Northern red oak).

Origin: North America

Availability: Limited availability

Average and Maximum Lifespan: 75-200 years


Sawing/Machining: Very good machining qualities.

Sanding: Plainsawn can be sanded to a smooth surface.

Suggested Sequence
First Cut: 40 or 50 at a 7-15 degree angle with the
Second Cut: 60 or 80 straight with the grain
Third Cut: 80 or 100
Hard Plate: 100
First Screen: 80 or 100
Second Screen: 120
End-grain requires a coarser abrasive to flatten; it is recommended that it be flattened by sanding at a 45-degree angle to the grain.

Nailing: Splits tongues easily.

Finishing: No known problems.

End-grain block usage results in a hard, high-wear surface. Produces only shorter-length boards.

Common Uses: Mesquite flour, jelly, honey and wine (made from the bean pods), barbecue wood and coals, furniture, traditional medicine, wood implements, livestock feed, firewood.

Detailed Description

Plant habit and lifestyle: Deciduous shrub or tree 20-30 ft. Extremely hardy, drought-tolerant, with deep tap roots up to 190 ft. in depth.

Stems: Twigs have a characteristic zig-zag form.

Buds: Bud regeneration zone can extend down to 6 inches below ground level. Mesquite can regenerate from a piece of root left in the soil. Pods are yellowish brown, subcylindrical, often irregularly curved, 6-25 cm long, 1-1.5 cm wide, stipe 1.3-1.8 cm long. Seeds are brown, narrowly obovoid, 6.5 mm long.

Leaves: Narrow, bipinnately compound leaves 2 to 3 inches long, of which the pinnules are sharply pointed, having 3-4 pairs of pinnae, each with 6-15 pairs of leaflets, oblong to elliptic-oblong, veins prominent on lower surface, pubescent, sometimes only along margins and on rachis, apex mucronate or weakly acuminate, base rounded, usually oblique. New growth has needle-sharp thorns up to 3 inches long. The spines are tough enough to penetrate footwear and tires. Older branches lose their spines as they grow.

Flowers: From March to November with pale, yellow, elongated spikes. Although a single flower of the blossom is only a few millimeters long, they are clustered into a yellow creamy blossoms attracting many different types of pollinators. Numerous single flowers in cylindrical spikes 7-12 cm long; corolla yellowish green, 6 mm long, five petals per flower, inner surface of petals is pilose; stamens 5-6 mm long.

Fruits: longated spikes bear straight, edible pods. The various types of mesquite can be identified by the seed pods. Screwbean mesquite pods curl around back onto themselves and are the easiest to identify. Honeybean and velvet mesquite are a little harder to differentiate. While both trees' seed pods are long and legumous, the velvet mesquite pods have a slight velvety appearance and feel.

Habitat: Mesquite prospers in a diversity of habitats, including humid and sandy coastal plains, grassy prairies, perennial and intermittent streambeds, desert basin shrublands, dunes, flattop mesas and mile-high, rocky mountain slopes. It can generate lateral surface roots and switch from utilizing deep water sources to surface runoff water sources.

Special Diagnostic Characters: 3 inch spikes on new growth, long yellowish flower clusters and bean pods.