Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park
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Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa)
Family: Fabaceae (Leguminosae)

Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa)
Honey mesquite beans hanging in bunches.

The honey mesquite is found from California to Kansas and south to Nuevo Leon, Mexico. This winter deciduous legume has nitrogen-fixing bacteria associated with its roots. Shed leaves have a high nitrogen content that fertilizes the soil under the plant when the leaves decompose. Mesquite may serve as a "nurse plant," especially for plants that require nitrogen-rich soils. Plants such as the desert holly (Acourtia nana) are common under the canopies of honey mesquite.

Mesquite taproots are commonly 40 feet (12 m) deep or longer. Long lateral roots are common on plants growing above a cemented calcium carbonate (caliche) soil layer. There are large thorns on the honey mesquite; many animals burrow under the mesquite to benefit from the protection offered by the thorns. Mesquite produces edible pods that are rich in carbohydrates and protein. The seeds and seed pods are collected by several species of large ants, kangaroo rats, and wood rats. Native Americans and early Spanish settlers ground these pods into a flour that was used for making breads and cakes.

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