I noticed in R.Rooster's essay (with the wonderful pictures) of a few days ago, that he mentioned the Mesquite tree. I know that in some places mesquite is considered invasive but in my area of TX, I think the opposite is true. Over the years I have seen a steady, relentless, elimination of the trees and plants of this countryside. We have eradicated most of our native plants and have replaced them with tightly packed neighborhoods, apartment complexes, strip malls, and highways. We have choked out the native habitats. The wide-open spaces and vistas that were prevalent here, are rapidly disappearing.
We know this kind of growth damages the ecosystem. It makes what is left of the ecosystem much more vulnerable to the stressors of climate change. As we are full-on immersed in climate change, I have become more interested in what characteristics might contribute to the resilience of native plants since they help support other plants and animals. Planting natives wherever we can, may help slow the collapse of a whole variety of species. That's the reason for my interest in Mesquite, it's a tough tree. Not only can it make it through a serious drought, but I noticed it survived the recent unusually cold temperatures in February. It is also an important anchor plant in that it feeds and shelters substantial number of plants and animals..
Here's what our local Mesquite variety, aka honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) can do:
grow a deep strong taproot
it's a legume so it fixes nitrogen and enriches the soil
casts the kind of shade that allows grasses and flowers to survive under its crown
livestock like the shade and the quality of the grass beneath them.
is a good specimen for yards and, with pruning, looks very nice
bees make honey from its blossoms
provides food and shelter for many species of wildlife including dove, scissor-tailed flycatchers, chachalacas, other birds, and small mammals
supports native pollinator species
is a larval host for Reakirt's blue, ceraunus blue, and long-tailed skipper butterflies
produce seed pods in abundance that feed birds, mammals, deer, horses, cattle, goats, (and people)
This video shows some more benefits: (2+minutes)
Mesquite flour contains a high amount protein and carbohydrates, and can be used in recipes as a substitute for wheat flour.
The indigenous peoples of California and southwestern North America used parts of Prosopis glandulosa as a medicinal plant, food source, building and tools material, a black dye, cement for mending pottery, and fuel. It was also used as a medicinal gum to treat dysentery, sore throats, and open wounds. The Cahuilla ate the blossoms and pods, which were ground into meal for cake. Its dense and durable wood is prized for making tools and arrow points, and for the unique flavor it lends to foods cooked over it. The deep taproots, often larger than the trunks, are dug up for firewood.
Harvesting mesquite pods for food: (3 min)
Mesquite is also used to make high-end and rustic furniture, posts and flooring. It is a beautiful wood.
Here an artist in southern Arizona works with mesquite: (3 min)
I hope in all those new neighborhoods that are springing up everywhere, some people will plant the honey mesquite and other native plants.
Image at top is a different variety but similar tree; Velvet mesquite, Prosopis veluntina, with spring foliage. Wikimedia Commons